dirge

noun

1
: a song or hymn of grief or lamentation
especially : one intended to accompany funeral or memorial rites
a funeral dirge
2
: a slow, solemn, and mournful piece of music
3
: something (such as a poem) that has the qualities of a dirge
dirgelike adjective

Did you know?

The meaning of English dirge is not directly related to the meaning of the Latin word it comes from. Dirge and its earlier form dirige, meaning "a song or hymn of mourning," come from the first word of a Latin chant used in the church service for the dead: "Dirige, Domine deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam." (Direct, O Lord my God, my way in thy sight). Because hymns and chants were often referred to by their first words, dirge became the common word for this chant. Later it was used for any slow, solemn piece of music.

Examples of dirge in a Sentence

bagpipes played a haunting dirge at the funeral for the fallen leader
Recent Examples on the Web The former is both a dirge and a monument for the victims of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The New Yorker, 25 Dec. 2023 This dirge for the dead is also an affirmation of life. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, 14 Dec. 2023 But four minutes in, the synth surges to the front, and then again a few minutes later, cresting in an ecstatic dirge reminiscent of Coltrane’s great devotional music. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 21 Nov. 2023 Expect wicked fun, not an existential dirge, from Boy Kills World, as Mohr’s dry, sarcastic humor saturates a dystopian fever dream that follows Boy (Bill Skarsgård) a deaf mute with a vibrant imagination who escapes to the jungle when his family is murdered by a gang. Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Sep. 2023 Over chilling, Carpenter-esque dirges, and in his unique ghostly rasp, Jeezy would go into drug-trade specifics. Abe Beame, Vulture, 23 Aug. 2023 The piece begins as a slow dirge, then accelerates into a kind of battle charge — the episode climaxes in a call to war for the latent rebels in Ferrix. Tim Greiving, Los Angeles Times, 16 Aug. 2023 Recorded over a prison phone line, the national anthem sounds more like a dirge than celebration and is overlaid with Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. BostonGlobe.com, 21 Apr. 2023 But then the song, slotted second to last, becomes something else: a crashing rock-opera dirge that feels like three-chord catharsis for everything that's come before it — and a useful reminder of all the unmarked moments and muses in her very young life still to come. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 30 July 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dirge.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English dirige, the Office of the Dead, from the first word of a Late Latin antiphon, from Latin, imperative of dirigere to direct — more at dress

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dirge was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near dirge

Cite this Entry

“Dirge.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dirge. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

dirge

noun
: a song or hymn of mourning
especially : one intended for funeral or memorial ceremonies
Etymology

Middle English dirige "service performed when someone dies," from Latin dirige "direct," first word in a prayer for the dead, from earlier dirigere "to direct"

Word Origin
The meaning of English dirge is not directly related to the meaning of the Latin word it comes from. Dirge and its earlier form dirige, meaning "a song or hymn of mourning," come from the first word of a Latin chant used in the church service for the dead: "Dirige, Domine deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam" (Direct, O Lord my God, my way in thy sight). Because hymns and chants were often referred to by their first words, dirge became the common word for this chant. Later it was used for a slow, solemn hymn of mourning.

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