swan song


Definition of swan song

1 : a song of great sweetness said to be sung by a dying swan
2 : a farewell appearance or final act or pronouncement

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Swans don't sing. They whistle or trumpet, or in the case of the swan most common in ponds, the mute swan, they only hiss and snort. But according to ancient legend, the swan does sing one beautiful song in its life-just before it dies. References in English to the dying swan's lovely singing go back as far as Chaucer, but the term swan song itself didn't appear in the language until the 1830s, when Thomas Carlyle used it in Sartor Resartus. Carlyle probably based his "swan song" on the German version of the term, which is Schwanengesang or Schwanenlied.

Examples of swan song in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Marvel Studios’ first film to be released in theaters in more than two years, Black Widow works as both a prequel and a swan song for Natasha, given her death in Avengers: Endgame. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 9 July 2021 As McLaren’s Sport Series swan song, the 620R may also be among the last to rely solely on combustion, if the new hybrid Artura offers any sense of direction. Viju Mathew, Robb Report, 1 May 2021 Historian Robert Vitz wasn’t as complimentary of Cincinnati’s exposition swan song. Jeff Suess, The Enquirer, 5 July 2021 Obviously Piper has played a significant role in all three in what has turned out to be his swan song. Dylan Bumbarger, oregonlive, 10 June 2021 What seems more likely, however, is that execs have purposely decided to put a bit of space between Seinfeld’s swan song on Hulu and its Netflix debut. Josef Adalian, Vulture, 17 June 2021 White’s Fire debut will be a June 19 road match with the Columbus Crew, that squad’s swan song at Historic Crew Stadium before moving into New Crew Stadium. Phil Rosenthal, chicagotribune.com, 8 June 2021 The Italian marque first unveiled the Revolución back in June 2013 as a swan song of sorts for the Zonda. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 14 May 2021 The Avalanche and Golden Knights are possibly staring down the legacy of their respective core groups, and might even be facing a swan song together, because of the realities of the NHL salary cap. Matt Kalman, Forbes, 29 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'swan song.' 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 swan song

1831, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of swan song was in 1831

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Last Updated

27 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Swan song.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swan%20song. Accessed 5 Aug. 2021.

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More Definitions for swan song

swan song


English Language Learners Definition of swan song

: the last performance or piece of work by an actor, athlete, writer, etc.


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