pro·​tha·​la·​mi·​on | \ ˌprō-thə-ˈlā-mē-ən How to pronounce prothalamion (audio) , -ˌän \
variants: or prothalamium \ ˌprō-​thə-​ˈlā-​mē-​əm How to pronounce prothalamion (audio) \
plural prothalamia\ ˌprō-​thə-​ˈlā-​mē-​ə How to pronounce prothalamion (audio) \

Definition of prothalamion

: a song in celebration of a marriage

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In 1595, the newly-wed Edmund Spenser wrote a poem to his young bride. He gave this poem the title Epithalamion, borrowing a Greek word for a song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom. Epithalamion, which eventually became established as an English word, can be traced to Greek words that mean "upon the bridal chamber." A year later, Spenser was inspired to write another nuptial poem—this time in celebration of the marriages of the Earl of Worcester's two daughters. But since the ceremonies had not yet taken place, he did not want to call it an epithalamion. After some reflection, Spenser decided to separate epi- from thalamion and wed the latter with pro- ("before"), inventing a word that would become established in the language with the meaning "a song in celebration of a marriage."

First Known Use of prothalamion

1597, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for prothalamion

New Latin, from Greek pro- + -thalamion (as in epithalamion)

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The first known use of prothalamion was in 1597

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Cite this Entry

“Prothalamion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Oct. 2022.

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