Definition of melisma in English:



  • A group of notes sung to one syllable of text.

    • ‘The solo viola engages in some exotic melismas in this movement too.’
    • ‘The melisma is a transposition of the notes E, F, C and B, and it appears frequently throughout the work.’
    • ‘The vocal lines, tailored to the soprano voice of Heidi Grant Murphy, are characterized by wide pitch fluctuations, melismas, and extrapolated sounds.’
    • ‘The opulent, yet bright orchestration and the chromatic melismata around the tritone and the melodic minor scale all point toward the composer of Schelomo.’
    • ‘A successful production of Poppea depends not upon operatic voices but upon singing actors who can color their voices and make drama out of the expressive melismas and coloratura.’


Late 19th century: from Greek, literally ‘melody’.