Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Music A funeral hymn or lament.
  • n. Music A slow, mournful musical composition.
  • n. A mournful or elegiac poem or other literary work.
  • n. Roman Catholic Church The Office of the Dead.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A mournful poem or piece of music composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A piece of music of a mournful character, to accompany funeral rites; a funeral hymn.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A funeral hymn; the funeral service as sung; hence, a song or tune expressing grief, lamentation, and mourning.
  • n. Synonyms Dirge, Requiem, Elegy, lament, threnody, coronach. The first three are primarily and almost uniformly suggested by the death of some person. A dirge or a requiem may be only music or may be a song. An elegy is a poem, which may or may not be sung. A requiem, being originally sung for the repose of the soul of a deceased person, retains a corresponding character when the music does not accompany words.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a song or hymn of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person

Etymologies

Middle English, an antiphon at Matins in the Office of the Dead, from Medieval Latin dīrige Domine, direct, O Lord (the opening words of the antiphon), imperative of dīrigere, to direct; see direct.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the beginning of an antiphon in the Latin requiem (Dirige, Domine, deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam) (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It is from the latter of these two words that the English term dirge is derived.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 3: Brownson-Clairvaux

  • The dirge is a lament for Aung San Suu Kii, the deposed leader of Burma who has been held under house arrest in her home in Rangoon for 17 years.

    James Mulvaney: Laura Bush: Political Prisoner?

  • From time to time he uttered soft regular sounds; he was wailing a dirge, that is, swaying backwards and forwards with his eyes shut, and shaking his head as drivers or bargemen do when they chant their melancholy songs.

    Mumu

  • The songs in "Deirdre," especially the last dirge, which is supposed to be the creation of the moment, must upon the other hand, at any rate when Miss Farr's or Miss Allgood's music is used, be sung or spoken with minute passionate understanding.

    Irish Plays and Playwrights

  • Rightly so, Lewd Acts front-load this album with a few more like this before throwing its first genuine sonic curveball, a slow spoken word dirge called "Who Knew The West Coast Could Be So Cold?".

    MetalSucks

  • The sense I get is of Iraq as an undertone, a kind of dirge playing softly beneath the pop charts.

    Living Politics: Waiting For The Heads to Roll

  • A "dirge" is a funeral or mourning song, so perhaps this is meant literally ... or, perhaps, this is a reference to some of the new

    American Pie - Program Notes

  • The muleteer, with head wrapped up in a shawl, intoned a kind of dirge, pausing sometimes to ask Allah to improve his plight.

    The Valley of the Kings

  • She would sit for hours singing or rather mourning out a kind of dirge over herself:

    Travels in West Africa

  • Their voices, too, are heard as a fugacious part in the dirge which is ever played along the shore for those mariners who have been lost in the deep since first it was created.

    Cape Cod

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