Definitions

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

  • n. Music The speed at which music is or ought to be played, often indicated on written compositions by a descriptive or metronomic direction to the performer.
  • n. A characteristic rate or rhythm of activity; a pace: "the tempo and the feeling of modern life” ( Robert L. Heilbroner).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a frequency or rate
  • n. a move which is part of one's own plan or strategy and forces, e.g. by means of a check or attacking a piece, the opponent to make a move which is not bad but of no use for him (the player gains a tempo, the opponent loses a tempo), or equivalently a player achieves the same result in fewer moves by one approach rather than another.
  • n. timing of a particular event – earlier or later than in an alternative situation (as in chess example)
  • n. The number of beats per minute in a piece of music; also, an indicative term denoting approximate rate of speed in written music (examples: allegro, andante)

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The rate or degree of movement in time.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n.
  • n. In music, the relative rapidity of rhythm; time; movement.
  • n. The characteristic rhythmical and metrical movement or pattern of a dance: as, tempo di valse, tempo di menuetto, etc.
  • n. An oval brass coin, with a square hole in the middle, first coined in Japan during the period “tempo” (1830–43 inclusive), and now equal to eight rin or cash, or eight tenths of a sen. One hundred and twenty-five tempos make one yen.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (music) the speed at which a composition is to be played
  • n. the rate of some repeating event

Etymologies

Italian, from Latin tempus, time.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • After any modification in tempo (either faster or slower) has been suggested it is usual to indicate a return to the normal rate by some such expression as _a tempo_ (lit. in time), _a tempo primo_ (lit. in the first time), _tempo primo_, or _tempo_.

    Music Notation and Terminology

  • Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he wasn't sure how his team would react to the long layoff or the change in tempo from the high-scoring series against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals that ended in five games more than a week ago.

    USATODAY.com - Spurs grease Pistons in Game 1

  • Controlling the tempo is a strategy, going back to the 4-corners in college ball, and the ability to do it well indicates defensive skill.

    Matthew Yglesias » Go Slow

  • In his writings he at first indicated this manner which gave so individual an impress to his virtuosity by the term tempo rubato: stolen, broken time ” a measure at once supple, abrupt, and languid, vacillating like the flame under the breath which agitates it, like the corn in a field swayed by the soft pressure of a warm air, like the top of trees bent hither and thither by a keen breeze.

    Frederic Chopin as a Man and Musician

  • Slow in tempo and often sweet, odd moments of discord in this piece seem to suggest the anxiety beneath.

    Readers recommend: songs set at dawn

  • And the tempo is high enough for one to wiggle around to.

    Readers recommend: songs about uncertainty

  • With only 15 days to go until midterm election day on 2 November, the tempo is getting faster as candidates in crucial marginal seats scour their districts for votes and debates – such as the one between Rand Paul and Jack Conway last night – take centre stage.

    Midterm elections live blog - Monday 18 October

  • [WYWH tempo is variable, but other than that, unbelievable.]

    Coyote Blog » Blog Archive » Favorite Live Album

  • Later, once the basic techniques are mastered, the teacher introduces the concept of making the notes sound like music by playing them to a certain tempo or time.

    Arthur Rosenfeld: Paying Attention to the Space Between Life's Notes

  • M.M., or D.M.A. Mastery is singing or playing on key, in tempo, with flawless tone and/or diction, and precise emotional expression.

    March « 2009 « L.E. Modesitt, Jr. – The Official Website

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  • Laura Bush's Secret Service code name...

    November 15, 2008

  • In chess, tempo refers to the moves. Gaining a tempo means accomplishing a task one move faster than your opponent, and allows you to move onto your next attack.

    July 27, 2008