Definition of oratorio in US English:


nounPlural oratorios

  • A large-scale musical work for orchestra and voices, typically a narrative on a religious theme, performed without the use of costumes, scenery, or action. Well-known examples include Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Handel's Messiah, and Haydn's The Creation.

    • ‘He also performed numerous songs, oratorios and cantatas.’
    • ‘She has performed in many operas, operettas, musicals and oratorios.’
    • ‘Born in Edinburgh, he was a violinist, conductor and teacher whose compositions included operas, oratorios, songs, concertos, chamber and orchestral works.’
    • ‘In fact, the work as a whole is more on the scale of an oratorio like Handel's Messiah than of any typical jazz recording.’
    • ‘He was also influential in introducing Handel's oratorios to the Boston public.’


Italian, from ecclesiastical Latin oratorium ‘oratory’, from the musical services held in the Church of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Rome.