Duet, Trio, Quartet, Quintet, Sextet, etc. Why is “trio” in here instead of tritet?


Duet, Trio, Quartet, Quintet, Sextet, etc. Why is “trio” in here instead of tritet?

In: 154

“Tritet” is not attested. (It’s “not a word”; doesn’t occur in dictionaries, etc.)

The rest of these words have the *-et* diminutive ending, but “trio” doesn’t. All of these words came into English via Italian and French, as with many other words used in music and theater.

A *duo* (two people) sing a *duet* (literally “a little two”).

Why the difference? It could be because some of these forms would collide with other uses. A *quarto* for instance is a size of paper (made from one big sheet folded into four), and a *triolet* (diminutive of “trio”) is a short poem where the first line is repeated twice later in the poem.

If you are generally considering only vocal parts then you could also use the term terzet (the group), or terzetto (with regard to a vocal composition for 3).

With that said trio covers the gamut of groups of three people or things. Since singers may be playing musical instruments a trio would be more correct and thus trio gains favor.

As someone else pointed out in part, a “duo” is a group of two. A “duet” is more commonly a piece of music performed by a duo. So you have solo, duo, trio, then the -*et*s. I could dig into the etymology further but referring you to wiktionary seems more expedient

Edit: doing a little further digging anyway…looks like there is a word “triplet” meaning a group of three (vs “one of a group of three”) which fell into disuse, probably 1) as its other meaning gained prominence and 2) because “trio” already existed redundantly

In musical terms, you have a solo, one singer, singing alone.
You also have a duo, two singers, singing together.
And lastly you got a trio, three singers, singing together.
You also got something called triplet, which is about how some music is played, rather then singing.
Anyway, solo, duo, trio would be normally followed by quado, pento, hexo, hepto, octo, nono and so on, to follow the naming tradition, but as we all know, english is on a single language.
So people used the greek -tet suffix instead, because they where familiar with it, it was used instead, as well as quado, pento, hexo, hepto, octo, and nono not existing as a term in italian for 4,5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 singers.
Which is funny, cause quartet can be said to come from itallian quartetto, however, its not used for singing in italian, just playing music, i.e. string quartet.
I am pretty sure you can blame barbershop quartets for this, since they kinda made a word for something that did not exist, however, I am not certain of it, since its just guess work on my side.

Depending on what you are talking about, you might you use the following:


For talking about multiple peaks in a graph. If you are talking about singers instead you can use different numbers. We use different numbers depending on what sort of thing you are talking about. For example, a race with 5 events is a pentathlon, not a quintathlon. It’s not really something that’s necessarily logically consistent, but each domain can have it’s own numbering scheme.