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n. pl. me·lis·ma·ta (-mə-tə) or me·lis·mas
A passage of multiple notes sung to one syllable of text, as in Gregorian chant.

[Greek, melody, from melizein, to sing, from melos, song.]

mel′is·mat′ic (mĕl′ĭz-măt′ĭk) adj.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


n, pl -mata (-mətə) or -mas
(Music, other) music an expressive vocal phrase or passage consisting of several notes sung to one syllable
[C19: from Greek: melody]
melismatic adj
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(mɪˈlɪz mə)

n., pl. -mas, -ma•ta (-mə tə)
a musical phrase of several notes sung to one syllable, as in plainsong.
[1605–15; < Greek mélisma song. See melody, -ism]
mel•is•mat•ic (ˌmɛl ɪzˈmæt ɪk) adj.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It happened one day when she was hanging out by her school and heard a nearby car blasting a song with melismatic vocal runs and rhythmic palmas hand-clapping.
Melismatic phrases with small note values correlated to the words: 'fliessen', 'brennen', 'berennen' (flow, burn, besiege) constitute typical figures denoting movement (see Example 12).
Shehnaz Begum's melismatic songs are still ingrained in the minds of her audience.
Chapter 3 covers the various styles of sacred music in the sixteenth century (plainchant and polyphony) and the complaints of those who criticized musical "vices" such as an excessively melismatic style of singing.
Melismatic passages are best described as approximatura.
The prayer starts from the upper tonic and evolves descending in an apparent arpeggio, but immediately, with the 5th step, the melody "settles down" to take a sinusoidal development which will prepare the melismatic interval of an eighth (IIa--IIa').
Those complex melismatic runs that have singer of lesser ability head for the hills?
Experienced live, the heady mix of sights and sounds was nothing short of exhilarating, especially when Mariah bravely demonstrated in 'My All' and 'One Sweet Day' (performed with Trey Lorenz and Daniel Moore) that she could still maneuver her way out of the tricky melismatic trills she's famous for, thanks to the trio of steel-voiced backup singers who conveniently 'took over' the repertoire's delicate sections.
I was finding that it was all too easy to lose perspective of the big picture when working on the piece because of the many instances where a melismatic run of what feels like a zillion notes precedes either the beginning of a phrase, or the climax of one.
When singing, they require a short melismatic extension to the last syllable of these lines.
The vocal writing is technically demanding, with a range of a twelfth (d'" - a"), (4) wide leaps, and melismatic writing, where a single syllable is set to several notes.