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In music, a half note (American) or minim (British) is a note played for half the duration of a whole note (or semibreve) and twice the duration of a quarter note (or crotchet). In time signatures with a denominator of 4, such as 4/4 or 3/4 time, the half note is two beats long.

Figure 1. A half note with stem facing up, a half note with stem facing down, and a half rest.

Half notes are notated with a hollow oval note head (like a whole note) and a straight note stem with no flags (like a quarter note; see Figure 1). The half rest (or minim rest) denotes a silence for the same duration. Half rests are drawn as filled-in rectangles sitting on top of the middle line of the musical staff. As with all notes with stems, half notes are drawn with stems to the right of the notehead, facing up, when they are below the middle line of the staff. When they are on or above the middle line, they are drawn with stems on the left of the note head, facing down.

The note derives from the minima in mensural notation, which is Latin for 'least or smallest,' because at one stage it was the shortest of all note values used. The word minim comes from this name. The American term half note is a 19th-century loan translation of German Halbe Note.

The names of this note (and rest) in European languages vary greatly:

Language note name rest name
German Halbe Note Halbe Pause
Greek Imisi/miso (ήμισι/μισό) Pafsi imiseos/pafsi misou (παύση ημίσεος/παύση μισού)
French blanche demi-pause
Italian minima pausa di minima
Spanish blanca silencio de blanca
Portuguese mínima pausa de mínima

The French and Spanish names for the note (all meaning "white") derive from the fact that the minima was the shortest unfilled note in mensural white notation, which is true as well of the modern form. The form in the earlier black notation resembles the modern quarter note (crotchet). The Greek names mean "half" and both the modern word (miso - μισό) and the older (imisi - ήμισι) are used. For the rest, the word "pafsi" (παύση) is used; this means "pause".



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