swan song


: a song of great sweetness said to be sung by a dying swan
: 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 For their recorded swan song and only album helmed by producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Peter Gabriel), the quartet jammed extensively in the studio in Paris on a set of instrumentals that brought back some of the funky international flavor of their early ‘80s work. Al Shipley, SPIN, 26 May 2024 Only Francis Ford Coppola’s wildly ambitious swan song Megalopolis had inspired more pre-premiere chatter and curiosity at this year’s edition of the glamorous French film festival. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 20 May 2024 The dingy swan song was a long way from the glory days at Freedom Center, when all the presses would be humming, tended by dozens of operators, printing more than a million copies of the Sunday Chicago Tribune alone. Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune, 19 May 2024 Its sustainability efforts—alongside his charity work—will no doubt be Branson's swan song. Shannon McMahon, Condé Nast Traveler, 22 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for swan song 

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

Word History

First Known Use

1831, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of swan song was in 1831


Dictionary Entries Near swan song

Cite this Entry

“Swan song.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swan%20song. Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

swan song

: a farewell appearance or final act or public statement

from the legend that a dying swan sings a beautiful song

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