plan·​gent ˈplan-jənt How to pronounce plangent (audio)
: having a loud reverberating sound
a plangent roar
: having an expressive and especially plaintive quality
plangent lyrics
plangently adverb

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Plangent adds power to our poetry and prose: the pounding of waves, the beat of wings, the tolling of a bell, the throbbing of the human heart, a lover’s knocking at the door—all have been described as plangent. The word plangent traces back to the Latin verb plangere, which has two meanings. The first of those meanings, “to strike or beat,” was sometimes used by Latin speakers in reference to striking one’s breast in grief. This led to the verb’s second meaning, “to lament.” The sense division carried over to the Latin adjective plangens and then into English, giving us two distinct meanings of plangent: “pounding” (as in “the plangent roar of waves”) and “expressive of woe, grief, or melancholy.” Like its synonym plaintive, plangent is often used to describe sounds, from bittersweet melodies to the wails of mourners, evoking deep and heartfelt sadness.

Examples of plangent in a Sentence

a plangent, haunting song about a long-ago love plangent organ music filled the church
Recent Examples on the Web The Tokyo composer and guitarist riffs on themes of real and imagined memories and the passage of time in plangent compositions replete with airy tones, childlike melodies, and molasses-thick smears of resonant harmony. Hattie Lindert, Pitchfork, 6 Oct. 2023 Indeed the music, with its banging, techno-style beats looped against plangent piano, analogizes Jamal’s predicament rather perfectly. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 25 Mar. 2023 The piercing sense of place that Samuel D. Hunter brings to his work, the majority of it set in his home state of Idaho, has perhaps never been accompanied by such plangent notes of sorrow as in his new play, Greater Clements. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Dec. 2019 Image The pool party is a squirmy tour de force embellished with a punctuating zoom and a plangent sense of dread that make Kayla’s isolation feel like alienation. Bo Burnham, New York Times, 11 July 2018 Though a handful of tracks feature plangent cello by Katinka Kleijn (a member of the CSO and ICE), who shades the chord changes and enriches the interplay, most of the album is just two guitars ringing out with relaxed, natural beauty. Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, 12 Oct. 2017

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

Word History


Latin plangent-, plangens, present participle of plangere to strike, lament — more at plaint

First Known Use

1666, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of plangent was in 1666


Dictionary Entries Near plangent

Cite this Entry

“Plangent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jul. 2024.

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