Definition of obbligato in English:


(also obligato)


  • usually with or as modifier An instrumental part, typically distinctive in effect, which is integral to a piece of music and should not be omitted in performance.

    • ‘The sequence of choruses, solos and duets accompanied by muted strings with, in turn, obbligato solo flute, oboe and horn, all supply inspiration and underline the work's deep spirituality.’
    • ‘It is not sung, but only declaimed, and the music is like an obbligato recitative.’
    • ‘Look, if you want a descending obligato, do it in the privacy of your own home away from us normal people.’
    • ‘Her voice joined in; softly working it's way through the obbligato, increasing in volume gradually.’
    • ‘The skilful use of obligato, the counter melody flowing around the main melody, is an unfailing attraction of his music.’
    backing, support, background, soundtrack, comp
    View synonyms


Italian, literally ‘obligatory’, from Latin obligatus, past participle of obligare (see oblige).