n. pl. cres·cen·dos or cres·cen·di (-dē)
1. Abbr. cr. Music
a. A gradual increase in the volume or intensity of sound in a passage.
b. A passage played with a gradual increase in volume or intensity.
a. A steady increase in intensity or force: "insisted [that] all paragraphs ... should be structured as a crescendo rising to a climactic last sentence" (Henry A. Kissinger).
b. Usage Problem The climactic point or moment after such a progression: "The attacks ... began in December ... and reached a crescendo during [the president's] September visit" (Foreign Affairs).
Gradually increasing in volume, force, or intensity.
With a crescendo.
intr.v. cres·cen·doed, cres·cen·do·ing, cres·cen·does
To build up to or reach a point of great intensity, force, or volume: "The designer-name craze crescendoed in the mid-seventies" (Bernice Kanner).
[Italian, present participle of crescere, to increase, from Latin crēscere; see ker-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: Crescendo is sometimes used to refer to a climax or peak, as in noise level, rather than an increase. The Usage Panel has mixed feelings about this usage, though the evidence suggests that acceptance of it is slowly increasing. In our 1988 survey, 55 percent of the Usage Panel rejected it in the sentence When the guard sank a three-pointer to tie the game, the noise of the crowd reached a crescendo. In 2006, 55 percent accepted this same sentence.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.