thren·​o·​dy | \ ˈthre-nə-dē How to pronounce threnody (audio) \
plural threnodies

Definition of threnody

: a song of lamentation for the dead : elegy

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Threnody encompasses all genres. There are great threnodies in prose (such as the lines from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House upon the death of Little Jo: "Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead…."), in poetry (as in W. H. Auden’s "Funeral Blues": "The stars are not wanted now: put out every one, / Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun…."), and in music (Giovanni Pergolesi’s "Stabat Mater," for one). Threnody, which we borrowed from the Greek word thrēnōidia (from thrēnos, the word for "dirge"), has survived in English since the early 1600s. Melody, tragedy, and comedy are related to threnody through the Greek root that forms their ending-aeidein, which means "to sing."

Examples of threnody in a Sentence

the composer's cello concerto was composed as a moving threnody for his late wife
Recent Examples on the Web His diary shrank to a litany of suffering and a threnody for what might have been. Sara Wheeler, WSJ, "‘The White Darkness’ Review: Coming in From the Cold," 25 Oct. 2018 Most critics acknowledged the score’s beautiful moments, especially Cleopatra’s death scene, in which the character’s plaintive lyrical lines are capped by a chilling choral threnody. Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, "Leontyne Price, Legendary Diva, Is a Movie Star at 90," 22 Dec. 2017 Needless to say, Murray’s threnody for Europe is as fundamentally incoherent as its late-19th-century originals. Pankaj Mishra, New York Times, "How the New Immigration Is Shaking Old Europe to Its Core," 14 Sep. 2017 Threnody in X (FTF), Soda Pop (FTF), Corn Hives (FTF), Facts (FTF), Sophie Brown, WIRED, "Music Week: Confessions of a Soundtrack Geek – Part One," 9 Aug. 2011

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

1634, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for threnody

Greek thrēnōidia, from thrēnos dirge + aeidein to sing — more at drone, ode

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Time Traveler for threnody

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The first known use of threnody was in 1634

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Cite this Entry

“Threnody.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of threnody

literary : a song or poem that expresses sorrow for someone who is dead

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