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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Did You Know?

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

His swan song coming in the Olympics, considering San Antonio’s embrace of international players and Popovich’s standing as a steward of the sport of basketball, makes narrative sense. SI.com, "One Year Out: What to Watch Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," 24 July 2019 So it was proven true once again last year, when Australia’s Harry Price won his second title at the prestigious tournament in his swan song. Andrew Turner, latimes.com, "Youth match racing skippers sail for stardom in 53rd Governor’s Cup," 13 July 2019 Orange Is the New Black‘s swan song begins July 26 on Netflix. Derek Lawrence, EW.com, "Orange Is the New Black braces for the end in final season trailer," 26 June 2019 One reason is that the concerts consist entirely of Mahler’s swan song, the 10th Symphony. Rob Hubbard, Twin Cities, "Review: Emotional extremes fill Minnesota Orchestra’s season-closing Mahler," 13 June 2019 But other parts of the relatively short presentation, lasting about an hour and a half, felt somewhat like a swan song for the more-than 80-year-old movie company founded through the merger of Fox Film and Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935. Ryan Faughnder, latimes.com, "Disney acquisition looms over Fox’s CinemaCon presentation," 26 Apr. 2018 Scott made them in the shapes of slot machines and washing machines, while Lagerfeld turned a ski gondola into the must-have cross-body from his swan song at Chanel. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "The 8 Best Accessory Trends of Fall 2019," 14 Mar. 2019 For Pfizer, the deal represents a late swan song for departing Chief Executive Ian Read, who earlier this year failed to sell the consumer health-care business in an auction. Denise Roland, WSJ, "Pfizer, Glaxo to Create Over-the-Counter Drug Giant," 19 Dec. 2018 The reversal represents a surprise capitulation for departing Chief Executive Paul Polman, who made the consolidation effort his swan song. Saabira Chaudhuri, WSJ, "Unilever Drops Plan to Leave London Amid Shareholder Revolt," 5 Oct. 2018

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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Last Updated

10 Aug 2019

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The first known use of swan song was in 1831

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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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