Definition of pizzicato in US English:



  • (often as a direction) plucking the strings of a violin or other stringed instrument with one's finger.

    • ‘Bassists should also include four 2-octave major scales and four 2-octave minor scales; two of each should be played arco, two of each should be played pizzicato.’


  • Performed pizzicato.

    ‘an inspired pizzicato movement by the Philharmonic strings’
    • ‘The song was difficult to perform, with complicated pizzicato parts and arpeggios, requiring swift and flexible movements.’
    • ‘A section for pizzicato strings suspended over creepy melodic lines for piano and Celesta seemed to turn the orchestra into a giant, threatening insect.’
    • ‘The slow movement ‘Aria,’ finely adumbrated by pizzicato bass at the scherzo's end, is a grave conversation among the string sections and their principals.’
    • ‘The first movement's imitations came alive and the pizzicato second movement was coloured with delicate charm.’
    • ‘‘Sam’ and ‘Two Rocks and a Cup of Water’ are magical pizzicato lullabies, intricate and tender, but with a razor-edged sweetness that manages not to be sentimental.’


  • 1The technique of playing pizzicato.

    • ‘But elasticity was put to quite different use at the start of the rondo: in an exaggeration of tempo di menuetto, the strings' pizzicato sounded rather like the snapping of rubber bands.’
    • ‘The orchestration is again brilliant, with particularly effective use of trumpets, pizzicato, string moto perpetuo, harp, and glockenspiel.’
    • ‘For example, in the A-minor concerto, the contrasting use of pizzicato versus arco with the same thematic material is a happy surprise, guaranteed to raise a smile.’
    • ‘Many of the most demanding techniques of the present-day violinist are associated primarily with him, including ‘ricochet’ bowing, left-hand pizzicato, and double-stop harmonics.’
    • ‘His playing is as imaginative and unpredictable as the source texts, flitting from bowed lyricism to mysterious pizzicato to downright scary scraping.’
    1. 1.1 A note or passage played pizzicato.
      • ‘Whether the soft pizzicatos made it to the audience all the way in the back is doubtful.’
      • ‘These elements were even more evocatively combined in the especially atmospheric penultimate song, ‘After a hundred years’, where the mellifluous voice was enveloped by the piano's sustained octaves and fifths and string pizzicati.’
      • ‘A whirlwind of a third movement, with its Bartók pizzicati, brought something of the sound world of the last movement of the Barber Violin Concerto.’
      • ‘I would disapprove only of the needlessly dry string pizzicatos at the first suggestion of the variations' sicilienne-like theme.’
      • ‘Their willingness to instill the piece with spirit is the great strength of the performance, though it sometimes leads them to overpluck the pizzicato of the second movement.’


Italian, literally ‘pinched, twitched’, past participle of pizzicare, based on pizza ‘point, edge’.