Definition and background:
A notation marking directing the performer or ensemble to sustain the note of a composition affecting all parts and lasting as long as the artistic interpretation of the conductor allows. The fermata is marked above the note or rest to be held. Also known as a hold or bird's eye. Also [Eng.] hold or [Eng.] bird's eye; [Fr.] pauses or [Fr.] point d'orgue; [Ger.] Fermate; [It.] fermata or [It.] pause or [It.] corona; [Sp.] fermata or [Sp.] calderon or [Sp.] corona. A pause, stop, or interruption as that before the cadenza of a concerto. finished, closed; i.e., a rest or note is to be held for a duration that is at the discretion of the performer or conductor (sometimes called bird's eye); a fermata at the end of a first or intermediate movement or section is usually moderately prolonged, but the final fermata of a symphony may be prolonged for twice its printed length or more for dramatic effect.a symbol that means to hold the note or rest until the conductor directs you to stop
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary