Thursday, April 7, 2011


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.

descant n.

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!


Patti D. said...

Very interesting word, I'll use it today

Necroticism said...

Very nice!!! I wasn't sure of the meaning, I had the main idea, but not entirely; thanks mate. :P

thenitefalls said...

I have to use this word today when I'm speaking out in class haha

Voit said...

Only after reading the etymology part did I remember that I know my language's descendant of 'discantus', which by the way has only the singing meaning (yeah, that's a surprise).

Megan Hansen said...

Oh this is a really cool blog! I'm glad I found it! I'll make a point to use these words every day until I've got them down.

VanillaFace said...

English is actually such a complicated language when you think about it. So many words!

consuela bananahammoc said...

Nice one today :)

Razor said...

Well, I'd have to descant the descant singer's oppinion. She can't descant at all.

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