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 Despite the temptation to consider the concerto — finished just months before Mozart’s death — a swan song, this is a work of singular, almost problematic, affability. Lukas Schulze, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 June 2022 Matador Records catalog with the Farewell Horizontal edition of their 1999 studio swan song Terror Twilight. Ron Hart, SPIN, 25 Apr. 2022 Still, Flesh + Blood secured Roxy Music’s invite to the cocktail party that is the ‘80s, a worthy aperitif for their swan song to come. Jill Krajewski, SPIN, 8 June 2022 Ulvaeus, 76, and Andersson, 74, told the outlet that while the group reunited for the record after parting ways in the early '80s, the new music will be ABBA's swan song, noting that the tracks that don't make it onto Voyage will remain unfinished. Vanessa Etienne, PEOPLE.com, 28 Oct. 2021 Comartin is planning to attend the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference later this month, which will serve as a sort of swan song for his career. Carol Cain, Detroit Free Press, 21 May 2022 Perez Toledo’s swan song, five stories featuring unfulfilled relationships and desire. Emilio Mayorga, Variety, 19 May 2022 Paul Crewes, who was the artistic director at the time, serves as creative producer on what is his swan song at the Beverly Hills theater. Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2022 James Mangold returned to the X-Men franchise for Logan, which would be Hugh Jackman's swan song after 17 years and 8 films playing Wolverine. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 29 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

8 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Swan song.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/swan%20song. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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