Definition of tenuto in US English:


adjective & adverb

  • (of a note) held for its full time value or slightly more.

    • ‘Here the high notes, mostly, and the tenuto notes, even more, hold out.’


  • A note or chord held for its full time value or slightly more.

    • ‘Two contrasting pieces-one piece, slower in tempo, should demonstrate an ability to shape phrases and control rubatos, tenutos and dynamics.’
    • ‘He used liberal vibrato and took many liberties in phrasing using ritards, accelerandos and tenutos over important structural notes.’
    • ‘Cellist Darry Dolezal added, ‘You might consider changing your articulations then from tenutos to staccatos to get the effect you are after.’’
    • ‘The only thing that I could think of is that perhaps he's meaning to use the tenutos to imply light stresses, as they happen all over the solo soprano line.’
    • ‘A variety of articulations are found in these pieces, including legato, staccato, two-note slurs, tenuti, portatos and accents.’


Italian, literally ‘held’, past participle of tenere.