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May 31, 2005
This week's theme
Words from music

This week's words
bravura
crescendo
gamut
coda
finale

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

crescendo

Pronunciation RealAudio

crescendo (kri-SHEN-do) noun, plural crescendos, crescendi

1. A gradual increase in loudness, intensity, or force.

2. The peak or climax.

adjective, adverb

With a gradual increase in loudness.

verb intr.

To grow in force, loudness, intensity, etc.

[From Italian crescendo (growing), present participle of crescere (to increase), from Latin crescere (to grow). Ultimately from Indo-European root ker- (to grow) that's also the source of other words such as increase, recruit, crew, crescent, cereal, concrete, and Spanish crecer (to grow).]

See more usage examples of crescendo in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

Crescendo is used as a direction in music. In written music, it's shown with a < sign. The opposite is diminuendo or decrescendo which is depicted by a >. Strictly speaking, crescendo is the process, not the end result. It refers to a gradual increase, not a peak, but popular usage has extended the sense of the word and it's often used to refer to the moment when something has reached its peak.

"A crescendo of boos rises from the crowd as a madman tackles the bull by its horns wrestling it to the ground, turning to cheers as enraged Spaniards set to him with boots and sticks."
Karl Gardner; A Load of Bull; New Zealand Herald (Auckland); Jul 6, 2004.

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I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself. -Pietro Aretino, satirist and dramatist (1492-1556)

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