Definition and background:
Also called " leading tone "; the major seventh of a scale, so called because it lies a semitone below the tonic and "leads" towards it. See also scale. the seventh degree of the diatonic scale, when it is only a half-step below the tonic. It is called "leading" because it gives the feeling of wanting to move up a half-step toward the tonic
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary