Word of the Day : June 4, 2015

swan song

play
noun SWAHN-SAWNG

Definition

1 : a song of great sweetness said to be sung by a dying swan

2 : a farewell appearance or final act or pronouncement

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

Professor Holland gave the final lecture of his long career, and his swan song was met with a standing ovation from his students.

"In hisswan songas Major League Baseball commissioner last year, Bud Selig scheduled Opening Day in Australia. Because, hey, nothing says spring and baseball more than playing the first game of the season at 3 a.m. 7,500 miles away from the nearest U.S. ballpark." - Norman Chad, Chicago Sun-Times, April 11, 2015



Test Your Vocabulary

Unscramble the letters to create the name for a young swan: GECTYN. The answer is …


Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!