Sotto voce

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sotto voce (/ˈsɒt ˈvi, -/,[1][2] Italian: [ˈsotto ˈvoːtʃe]; literally 'under the voice')[3][4] 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" ("And yet [the Earth] moves"), spoken after deciding to recant his heliocentric theory, is a legendary example of a sotto voce utterance.[5]



In law, "sotto voce" on a transcript indicates a conversation heard below the hearing of the court reporter.[6]

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. Also similar to an aside, sotto voce can be used to express a character's thoughts out loud. 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[7]

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


The Chœur d'Enfants Sotto Voce is a children's choir that resides at the Châtelet Theatre in Paris. They're known for their interpretations of all types of songs, ranging from Broadway to French classics to Jazz.


  1. ^ American Heritage Dictionary
  2. ^ Collins English Dictionary
  3. ^ Brown, Emily Freeman (2015). A Dictionary for the Modern Conductor. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 319. sotto voce. (It., lit. "under the voice.")
  4. ^ Harnsberger, Lindsey C. (1997). Essential Dictionary of Music Definitions. Los Angeles: Alfred Pub. Co. p. 54. sotto voce ... Under the voice, in soft voice
  5. ^ Did Galileo Truly Say, 'And Yet It Moves?' A Modern Detective Story, Scientific American. Mario Livio, May 6, 2020. Retrieved January 25, 2022.
  6. ^ "Uniform Format Manual for Texas Reporters' Records" (PDF). Uniform Format Manual. State of Texas Judicial Branch. pp. 8, 17–18. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  7. ^ Brontë, Charlotte (2008). Jane Eyre (3rd ed.). London: Penguin Classics. p. 45.