Sotto voce

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For the musical usage, see Sotto voce (music).

Sotto voce (/ˈsɒtəʊ ˈvəʊtʃɪ/ or /ˈsɒtəʊ ˈvəʊtʃɛ/ or /ˈsɒt ˈv/;[1][2] Italian: [ˈsotto ˈvoːtʃe], literally "under the voice") means intentionally lowering the volume of one's voice for emphasis. The speaker gives the impression of uttering involuntarily a truth which may surprise, shock, or offend. Galileo Galilei's (probably apocryphal) utterance "Eppur si muove" ("Nonetheless, [the Earth] does move"), spoken after recanting his heliocentric theory, is an example of sotto voce utterance.[citation needed]



In law, "sotto voce" on a transcript indicates a conversation heard below the hearing of the court reporter.[citation needed]

Drama, literature, and rhetoric[edit]

In drama, literature, and rhetoric, sotto voce is used to denote emphasis attained by lowering one's voice rather than raising it, similar to the effect provided by an aside. For example, in Chapter 4 of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë uses the term sotto voce to describe Mrs. Reed's manner of speaking after arguing with Jane:

'I am not your dear; I cannot lie down. Send me to school soon, Mrs. Reed, for I hate to live here.'
'I will indeed send her to school soon,' murmured Mrs. Reed, sotto voce; and gathering up her work, she abruptly quitted the apartment.
— Jane Eyre[3]


Further information: Sotto voce (music)

In music, sotto voce is a dramatic lowering of the vocal or instrumental volume.


  1. ^ American Heritage Dictionary
  2. ^ Collins English Dictionary
  3. ^ Brontë, Charlotte (2008). Jane Eyre (3rd ed.). London: Penguin Classics. p. 45.