ber·​ceuse ber-ˈsœz How to pronounce berceuse (audio) -ˈsüz How to pronounce berceuse (audio)
plural berceuses ber-ˈsœz How to pronounce berceuse (audio)
: a musical composition usually in ⁶/₈ time that resembles a lullaby

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The lullaby is a standard of classical music. German composer Johannes Brahms is perhaps best known for his "Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, gute Nacht" ("Good evening, good night"), Op. 49, No. 4, published in 1868, purportedly written for a friend to celebrate the birth of her son. Compositionally, a berceuse is similar to a lullaby, particularly in its soothing refrain often set to a rocking rhythm usually in 6/8 time. Among the earliest examples of works known by that name is Frédéric Chopin's Berceuse in D-flat Major (1843-44), written for piano; Franz Liszt, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Maurice Ravel also composed berceuses. The word berceuse is indicative of its use as an aid to sleep-it derives from the French bercer ("to rock") and ultimately from the Old French bers ("cradle").

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The second of two great septuagenarian pianists passing through New York this week brings with him an all-Chopin program, featuring two sets of nocturnes, a couple of ballades, a scherzo, a berceuse and the third of the composer’s sonatas. David Allen, New York Times, 18 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'berceuse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


French, from bercer to rock, from Old French bercier, from bers cradle

First Known Use

1858, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of berceuse was in 1858


Dictionary Entries Near berceuse

Cite this Entry

“Berceuse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Nov. 2022.

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