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I've seen both these terms listed in online music glossaries as meaning "dying away", but neither entry ever refers to the other. Are there any real-world differences in how these are interpreted?

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    In which pieces of music have you seen these terms? The typical musical term I see for "dying away" is smorzando. – Dekkadeci Aug 8 at 6:01
  • Both Italian, both meaning 'dying away, 'expiring'. Can't find any more info. – Tim Aug 8 at 7:30
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FWIW, the go-to Dolmetsch page says
espirando

(Italian) fading away, expiring, dying away, spirando, en expirant

mancando

(Italian) failing, diminishing in strength, dying away, lacking

smorzando

(Italian) extinguished, put out, gradually dying away to a whisper, calming down, subduing (Italian ) in music, similar terms include al niente (Italian), morendo (Italian), dämpfend (German), abschwächend (German), bis zum Nichts (German), en amortissant (French), hasta la nada (Spanish)

The basic answer is that composers use the word(s) they want to, and there's a ton of overlap in the multitude of semicommonly used descriptors.

  • Doesn’t morendo also mean something similar? – Todd Wilcox Aug 8 at 13:22
  • @ToddWilcox - another Italian word for dying. Maybe that's a common thing to do there?! – Tim Aug 8 at 14:49
  • I typically understand "al niente" to mean dying away to literally nothing, not the p/pp/ppp of smorzando. – Dekkadeci Aug 8 at 16:46
  • All this answer has done really is to quote Dolmetsch. Little has been added. Google Dolmetsch. – Tim Aug 13 at 18:09
  • I didn't accept this answer primarily for its Dolmetsch quotes, I accepted it for "The basic answer is that composers use the word(s) they want to, and there's a ton of overlap in the multitude of semicommonly used descriptors" – Peter Smith Aug 14 at 9:48

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