Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
November 13th, 2014
Episode 17 of 790 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 13, 2014 is: threnody \THREN-uh-dee\ noun : a song of lamentation for the dead : elegy Examples: Christina wrote the poem as a threnody for her grandmother, who had died the previous spring. "Ian Hobson will lead the Sinfonia strings in Strauss' 'Metamorphosen,' his threnody on the destruction of German musical monuments at the end of World War II." John Frayne, The News-Gazette (Champaign, Illinois), September 11, 2014 Did you know? Threnody encompasses all genres. There are great threnodies in prose (such as the lines from Charles Dickens Bleak House upon the death of Little Jo: "Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead."), in poetry (as in W. H. Audens "Funeral Blues": "The stars are not wanted now: put out every one, / Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun."), and in music (Giovanni Pergolesis "Stabat Mater," for one). Threnody, which we borrowed from the Greek word thrēnōidia (from thrēnos, the word for "dirge"), has survived in English since the early 1600s. Melody, tragedy, and comedy are related to threnody through the Greek root that forms their endingaeidein, which means "to sing."