AskDefine | Define impromptu

Dictionary Definition

impromptu adj : with little or no preparation or forethought; "his ad-lib comments showed poor judgment"; "an extemporaneous piano recital"; "an extemporary lecture"; "an extempore skit"; "an impromptu speech"; "offhand excuses"; "trying to sound offhanded and reassuring"; "an off-the-cuff toast"; "a few unrehearsed comments" [syn: ad-lib, extemporaneous, extemporary, extempore, offhand, offhanded, off-the-cuff, unrehearsed]


1 an extemporaneous speech or remark; "a witty impromptu must not sound premeditated"
2 a short musical passage that seems to have been made spontaneously without advance preparation adv : without advance preparation; "he spoke ad lib" [syn: ad lib, ad libitum, spontaneously]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin in promptu 'in readiness'.


  • /ɪmprɒmptju/


  1. Improvised; without prior preparation; extemporaneous; unplanned.
    The party began with an impromptu rendition of 'Happy Birthday'.




  1. a short musical composition for an informal occasion often with the character of improvisation and usually to be played solo.


Extensive Definition

An impromptu (loosely meaning "offhand") is a free-form musical composition with the character of an improvisation, usually for a solo instrument, such as piano.
The first recorded use of the term impromptu in this sense occurred in 1817, in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, an idea of the publisher to describe a piano piece by Voříšek.
It didn't take long before the first generation of Romantic composers took up the idea: The impromptu genre remained popular all throughout the 19th century.
In the 20th century there are fewer examples of composers naming their compositions "Impromptu", e.g.:


impromptu in German: Impromptu
impromptu in Spanish: Impromptu
impromptu in French: Impromptu (musique)
impromptu in Japanese: 即興曲
impromptu in Dutch: Impromptu (muziekstuk)
impromptu in Norwegian: Impromptu
impromptu in Polish: Impromptu
impromptu in Portuguese: Impromptu
impromptu in Russian: Экспромт (музыка)
impromptu in Finnish: Impromptu
impromptu in Swedish: Impromptu

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ad lib, ad libitum, ad-lib, ad-libbing, arrangement, at short notice, at sight, by ear, cadenza, caught napping, caught off balance, caught short, extemporaneous, extemporaneously, extemporaneousness, extemporarily, extemporariness, extemporary, extempore, extemporization, extemporized, flourish, haphazard, hasty, hot lick, improvisation, improvisatorial, improvise, improvised, improvision, improviso, interpolation, jury-rig, jury-rigged, lick, makeshift, measure, off the cuff, off the hip, off-the-cuff, offhand, on sight, out of hand, playing by ear, precipitate, pro tempore, quick, riff, rough-and-ready, snap, stopgap, surprised, taken aback, taken by surprise, taken unawares, temporary arrangement, temporary measure, tripped up, unarranged, unbegun, unconcocted, uncontrived, undeliberated, undevised, unhatched, unmade, unmanufactured, unorganized, unplanned, unpremeditated, unprepared, unprimed, unready, unrehearsed, unstudied, vamp
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