from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A sign used in the notation of plainsong during the Middle Ages, surviving today in transcriptions of Gregorian chants.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Modulation of the voice in singing.
  • noun In music:
  • noun A sign or character used in early medieval music to indicate a tone or a phrase.
  • noun A melodic phrase or division, sung to a single syllable, especially at the end of a clause or sentence; a sequence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun music A sign used in early musical notation


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, series of notes sung on one syllable, from Medieval Latin pneuma, from Greek, breath; see pneuma.]


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  • In any case, using his editions allow any choir to put the language and neume issues on the shelf for a time, while still permitting the Gregorian melody to be sung.

    The Offertory Proper, Latin and English (updated)

  • Here, there are 19 syllables in Latin and only 15 in English, so you'll have to spread a few of the words out over some neume-groups.

    Pánis, quem égo dédero

  • That one is used over and over again, and many other neume-types are created from it.

    Tone 1

  • That one is used over and over again, and many other neume-types are created from it.

    Archive 2006-07-01

  • The clefs at the beginning of the staffs are of course simply altered forms of the letters F, C, and G, which were written at first by Guido and others to make the old neume notation more definite.

    Music Notation and Terminology

  • Another writer [38] gives a somewhat different explanation, stating that the staff system with the use of clefs came about through writing a letter (C or F) in the margin of the manuscript and drawing a line from this letter to the neume which was to represent the tone for which this particular letter stood.

    Music Notation and Terminology

  • In the course of two or three centuries these marks were added to and modified quite considerably, and the system of notation which thus grew up was called "neume notation," the word _neume_

    Music Notation and Terminology

  • Here then we observe the greatest weakness of the neume system -- its lack of uniformity and its consequent inability accurately to express musical ideas for universal interpretation.

    Music Notation and Terminology

  • The elements of neume-writing as given by Riemann in his Dictionary of

    Music Notation and Terminology

  • Neume notation was used mostly in connection with the "plain-song melodies" of the Church, and since the words of these chants were sung as they would be pronounced in reading, the deficiency of the neume system in not expressing definite duration values was not felt.

    Music Notation and Terminology


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  • From the Greek word "pneuma," meaning 'breath.'

    August 16, 2008

  • That's silly. Why don't you just use pneuma? For some reason English speakers are frightened of more than two consonants beginning a word. So they drop the beginnings of gnomon, Ptolemy, pterodactyl, chthonic, pneumatic, psychology, mnemonic, Cnidarian, bdellium, and the wonderful middle of phenolphthalein, in addition to who knows what else. But it's fun to begin a word with two consonants! Similar wishy-washiness is seen beginning words with x; Xerxes and xanthrophyll are not Zerkzes and zanthrophil! It's particularly annoying with words that begin with ps -- that's one letter and pronounced as one letter! We don't say Cyclos, we say Cyclops -- so why not psalter?

    August 16, 2008

  • phthisic. phthisic. phthisic.

    chthonic. chthonic. chthonic.

    pamela ffrench-worthington-psmith.

    August 17, 2008

  • my favorite: apophthegm, which Americans reduce to apothegm.

    August 17, 2008

  • "In any case, his mind was too busy to be seeking after an elusive neume, for he was about to report to a new captain, a man upon whom his comfort and ease of mind was to depend, to say nothing of his reputation, career and prospects of advancement."

    Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian, p 54 of the Norton paperback edition

    July 8, 2019