Definition and background:
Term used to modify tempo markings in a composition. For example, the term " allegro assai " would mean very fast. Some composers have used it to mean rather as opposed to "very". This was primarily in the 18th century. appears often in indications to performers of the speed of a piece of music, as in allegro assai, very fast, or allegro assai moderato, very moderately fast
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary