descant [ˈdɛskænt, dɛsˈkænt] v. i.
1.) To make remarks, comments, or observations; to comment (on, upon, of a text, theme, etc.).
2.) To discourse at large, enlarge (upon, on a theme).
3.) [Obs.] To work with intricate variation on; to fashion with artistic skill.
4.) To play or sing an air in harmony with a fixed theme; gen. to warble, sing harmoniously; also in phr. to descant it.
descant v. t.
1.) To sing in ‘descant’ (words, etc.).
2.) [Obs.] To comment on, discourse about, discuss; occas. to criticize, carp at.
1.) A disquisition, dissertation, discourse.
2.) [Obs.] Varied comment on a theme, amplification of a subject; a comment, criticism, observation, remark; occas. censorious criticism, carping.
3.) Variation from that which is typical or customary; an instance of this. shift of descant: a change of ‘tune’, i.e. of argumentative position.
4.) A melodious accompaniment to a simple musical theme (the plainsong), sung or played, and often merely extemporized, above it, and thus forming an air to its bass: the earliest form of counterpoint.
5.) The soprano or highest part of the score in part-singing.
6.) A warbled song, a melodious strain.
7.) The art of singing or writing music in parts; musical composition, harmony; also, a harmonized composition.
8.) An instrumental prelude, consisting of variations on a given theme (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-Norman descaunt, from Medieval Latin discantus, a refrain: Latin dis-, dis- + Latin cantus, song from past participle of canere, to sing.
"Hark! how the cheerefull birds do chaunt theyr laies,
And carroll of Loves praise:
The merry larke hir mattins sings aloft;
The thrush replyes; the mavis descant playes;
The ouzell shrills; the ruddock warbles soft;
So goodly all agree, with sweet consent,
To this dayes meriment (Epithalamion, Edmund Spenser, 1595).
Today's word in honour of the blog: Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious. Next week, I'll find out what insalubrious means!