pae·​an | \ ˈpē-ən How to pronounce paean (audio) \

Definition of paean

1 : a joyous song or hymn of praise, tribute, thanksgiving, or triumph unite their voices in a great paean to liberty— Edward Sackville-West
2 : a work that praises or honors its subject : encomium, tribute wrote a paean to the queen on her 50th birthday

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According to the poet Homer, the Greek god Apollo sometimes took the guise of Paean, physician to the gods. The earliest musical paeans were hymns of thanksgiving and praise that were dedicated to Apollo. They were sung at events ranging from boisterous festivals to public funerals, and were the traditional marching songs of armies heading into battle. Over time, the word became generalized, and it is now used for any kind of tribute.

Examples of paean in a Sentence

his retirement party featured many paeans for his long years of service to the company
Recent Examples on the Web The Book of Mormon is a superfan’s paean to the King James Bible: there’s a reworking of Exodus, but instead of Moses there is Lehi, leading his people not to Canaan but to America. Andrew Kay, Longreads, 17 July 2021 The Biden picture book from his trip abroad has been a paean to friendship. Washington Post, 15 June 2021 The piece is a strange paean to the fact of journalistic fallibility. The New Yorker, 17 June 2021 Edwin Blashfield’s Science Presenting Steam and Electricity to Commerce and Manufacture was a paean to industrialization. Smithsonian Magazine, 11 June 2021 His paean was interrupted only by one brief note of warning. New York Times, 28 May 2021 Goode quotes Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Charles McDowell’s 1973 paean to the garage, written after it was announced it would be demolished. Washington Post, 24 Apr. 2021 Barnett begins this paean to the seashell with a description of how they are made. New York Times, 19 May 2021 Shaking the Gates is part family memoir, part history; part paean to parents, part sophisticated sociological critique, including critique of Archibald’s own family. Dan Carsen, al, 6 Apr. 2021

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

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First Known Use of paean

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for paean

Latin, hymn of thanksgiving especially addressed to Apollo, from Greek paian, paiōn, from Paian, Paiōn, epithet of Apollo in the hymn

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Last Updated

28 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Paean.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jul. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of paean

literary : a song of joy, praise, or victory

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