Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Cadence

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is cadence. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Cadence is used to refer to various rhythmic or repeated motions, activities, or patterns of sound, or to a falling inflection of the voice.

// Stephanie relaxed at the beach, listening to the cadence of the surf. 

// The files are updated at a regular cadence.

// The drill sergeant counted cadence.

CADENCE in Context

“The near four-minute track opens with [Erykah] Badu solemnly singing the words ‘this bitter land’ as violin strings lament Erykah’s emotional words. She goes on to sing in a legato cadence saying, ‘One with my soul / The fruit it bears / Leaves me so cold.’” — Amber McKynzie, Essence, 27 Oct. 2020

Did You Know?

A cadence is a rhythm, or a flow of words or music, in a sequence that is regular (or steady as it were). But lest we be mistaken, cadence also lends its meaning to the sounds of Mother Nature (such as birdsong) to be sure. Cadence comes from Middle English borrowed from Medieval Latin’s own cadentia, a lovely word that means “rhythm in verse.” (You may also recognize a cadence cousin, sweet cadenza, as a word that is familiar in the opera universe.) And from there our cadence traces just a little further backward to the Latin verb cadere “to sound rhythmically, to fall.” Praise the rising and the falling of the lilting in our language, whether singing songs or rhyming or opining on it all.

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