Is acapella or a capella correct? Technically speaking, “a capella” is correct but the modern spelling of the word is “a cappella.” It means to sing without the use of instruments. Therefore, “a capella” will always be two words. Whether you should include the extra “p” or not will be entirely up to you.
But, if you want to use the proper yet modern spelling, you will always write out “a cappella.” For the sake of consistency, we will use this spelling.
A Cappella Etymology
The earliest known version of what we spell today as “a cappella” comes from 1824 in Italy. There, they spelled it “alla capella,” which means “in the manner of Church music,” “in the style of the chapel” or literally, “from the chapel.”
“A” is a Latin morphology of “ad,” from the original “alla” meaning “for; according to; toward or to.” This is a compound word from “a la” and it translates as “to the.” Cappella is Italian for “church or chapel.” Ergo, its exact translation is “for to the chapel.”
This reference ties back to the era before the 1600s and it indicated voices unaccompanied by music. But, at the time, it denoted that instruments were to play in the same key/note as the singing or one part of the song was to have a number of instruments play outside of the musical vocals.
Modern Use of A Cappella
It was only in the 20th century that it became a general genre of music that refers specifically to any singing that doesn’t require instruments. What’s more, it doesn’t require being in church or having any religious affiliation whatsoever.
Therefore “a cappella” is not a word of English origin. It is Italian and functions as an adverb, adjective or noun. The immediate inference is that there are no instruments accompanying someone singing.
An adverb modifies a noun, verb or adjective.
He sang a cappella for the Christmas pageant.
Boyz II Men performed a cappella in the 1990s and they were famous for it.
In the 1950s, there were many music groups singing a cappella as street performers.
An adjective always describes or emphasizes a noun, adverb or other words.
His a capella singing was beautiful in the Christmas pageant.
Boyz II Men were famous for their a cappella style in the 1990s.
Many street performing groups in the 1950s used a cappella singing.
A noun is a person, place, object or thing.
A cappella was how he sang for the Christmas pageant.
Boyz II Men revivified a cappella with their remake of, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
A cappella was a popular style in the 1950s.
To recap, “a cappella” is a two-word Italian phrase that means singing without the use of instrumentation. However, this is a modern spelling and reference. It comes from church singing that goes back to the pre-1600s. You can spell it as “a capella” and it’s still correct.