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contralto (kəntrălˈtō) [key], female voice of lowest pitch. Originally, the term denoted a second voice set against ( contra ) a high voice ( alto ); thus, a second high voice. Since most second parts were for a high male voice or a low woman's voice, the term came to mean a low woman's voice, pitched about a fifth below the soprano. See also alto; countertenor; voice.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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