AskDefine | Define song

Dictionary Definition



1 a short musical composition with words; "a successful musical must have at least three good songs"
2 a distinctive or characteristic sound; "the song of bullets was in the air"; "the song of the wind"; "the wheels sang their song as the train rocketed ahead"
3 the act of singing; "with a shout and a song they marched up to the gates" [syn: strain]
4 the characteristic sound produced by a bird; "a bird will not learn its song unless it hears it at an early age" [syn: birdcall, call, birdsong]
5 a very small sum; "he bought it for a song"
6 the imperial dynasty of China from 960 to 1279; noted for art and literature and philosophy [syn: Sung, Sung dynasty, Song dynasty]

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English sang


  • (UK) /sɒŋ/
  • (US) /sɑŋ/
  • Rhymes: -ɒŋ


  1. A musical piece with lyrics (or "words to sing"); prose that one can sing.
    He wrote a beautiful song about her.
  2. A musical sound by a bird.
  3. A musical sound by insect, whale or some other animal which sounds melodious to humans.
    I love hearing the song of canary birds.
  4. Something that cost only a little.
    He bought that car for a song.
  5. Faeces.
    The gorilla liked to fling song at the patrons at the zoo.


music with words
sound of a bird
sound of another animal
inexpensive deal

Derived terms








Pinyin syllable

  1. A transliteration of any of a number of Chinese characters properly represented as having one of three tones, sōng, sǒng, or sòng.

Usage notes

English transcriptions of Chinese speech often fail to distinguish between the critical tonal differences employed in the Chinese language, using words such as this one without the appropriate indication of tone.

Extensive Definition

A song is a musical composition. Songs contain vocal parts that are performed, 'sung,' and generally feature words (lyrics), commonly followed by other musical instruments (exceptions would be acappella and scat songs). The words of songs are typically of a poetic, rhyming nature, although they may be religious verses or free prose. The words are the lyrics.
Songs are typically for a solo, singer, though there may also be a duet, trio, or more voices (works with more than one voice to a part, however, are considered choral). Songs can be broadly divided into many different forms, depending on the criteria used. One division is between "art songs", "popular music songs", and "folk songs". Other common methods of classification are by purpose (sacred vs secular), by style (dance, ballad, Lieder, etc), or by time of origin (Renaissance, Contemporary, etc).
Colloquially, song is sometimes used as slang to refer to any music composition, even those without vocals. In European classical music, jazz, brass band, popular music, and many other musical styles however, this usage is considered incorrect. "Song" should only be used to describe a composition for the human vocals. In music styles that are predominantly vocal-based, a composition without vocals is often called an instrumental. A musical piece that may be either with or without vocals can be called a melody, a tune, or a composition.

Cultural types

Art songs

Art songs are songs created for performance in their own right, or for the purposes of a European upper class, usually with piano accompaniment, although they can also have other types of accompaniment such as an orchestra or string quartet, and are always notated. Generally they have an identified author(s) and require voice training for acceptable performances. The German-speaking communities to refer to the serious art song, whereas in German-speaking communities the word "Kunstlied" (plural: "Kunstlieder") is used to distinguish art song from folk song ("Volkslied"). The lyrics are often written by a lyricist and the music separately by a composer. Art songs may be more formally complicated than popular or folk songs, though many early Lieder by the likes of Franz Schubert are in simple strophic form. They are often important to national identity. Art songs feature in many European cultures, including but not limited to: Russian (romansy), Dutch (lied), Italian (canzoni), French (mélodies), Scandinavian (sånger), Spanish (canciones). There are also highly regarded British and American art songs in the English language. Cultures outside of Europe may have what they consider to be a classical music tradition, such as India, and thus feature art songs. The accompaniment of pieces of this period is considered as an important part of the composition. The art song of this period is often a duet in which the vocalist and accompanist share in interpretive importance. The pieces were most often written to be performed in a home setting although today the works enjoy popularity as concert pieces. The emergence of poetry during this era was much of what inspired the creation of these pieces by Brahms, Schumann, Schubert and other period composers. These composers set poems in their native language. Many works were inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich Heine. Another method would be to write new music for each stanza to create a unique form, this was through-composed form known in German as durchkomponiert. A combination of both of these techniques in a single setting was called a modified strophic form. Often romantic art songs sharing similar elements were grouped as a song cycle. (Kamien, 217–18)

Folk songs

Folk songs are songs of often anonymous origin (or are public domain) that are transmitted orally. They are frequently a major aspect of national or cultural identity. Art songs often approach the status of folk songs when people forget who the author was. Folk songs are also frequently transmitted non-orally (that is, as sheet music), especially in the modern era. Folk songs exist in almost every, if not all, culture(s). For more on folk songs, see Folk music.

Popular songs

Popular songs or phonograph records and radio, though all other mass media that have audio capability are involved. The popularity of popular songs is inferred from commercially significant sales of recordings, ratings of stations and networks that play popular songs, and ticket sales for concerts by the recording artists. A popular song becomes a modern folk song when members of the public who learn to sing it from the recorded version teach their version to others. Popular songs may be called pop songs for short, although pop songs or pop music may instead be considered a more commercially popular genre of popular music as a whole.


  1. Middleton, Richard (1990/2002). Studying Popular Music. Philadelphia: Open University Press. ISBN 0335152759.
  2. Kamien, Roger. Music : An Appreciation. Mcgraw-Hill College; 3rd edition (August 1, 1997) ISBN 0070365210

External links

Performing Rights Societies in the USA
song in Arabic: أغنية
song in Azerbaijani: Mahnı
song in Bulgarian: Песен
song in Catalan: Cançó
song in Czech: Píseň
song in Danish: Sang
song in German: Lied
song in Modern Greek (1453-): Τραγούδι
song in Spanish: Canción
song in Esperanto: Kanto
song in Persian: ترانه
song in French: Chanson
song in Korean: 노래
song in Ido: Kansono
song in Indonesian: Lagu
song in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Canto
song in Icelandic: Lag
song in Italian: Canzone (musica)
song in Swahili (macrolanguage): wimbo
song in Luxembourgish: Lidd
song in Lithuanian: Daina
song in Malay (macrolanguage): Lagu
song in Dutch: Lied
song in Japanese: 歌
song in Norwegian: Sang
song in Norwegian Nynorsk: Song
song in Narom: Caunchoun
song in Low German: Leed
song in Polish: Piosenka
song in Portuguese: Canção
song in Kölsch: Leed (Mussik)
song in Romanian: Cântec
song in Quechua: Rimay taki
song in Russian: Песня
song in Albanian: Kënga
song in Simple English: Song
song in Slovak: Pieseň
song in Finnish: Kappale (musiikki)
song in Swedish: Sång
song in Silesian: Pjosynka
song in Thai: เพลง
song in Vietnamese: Bài hát
song in Turkish: Şarkı (edebiyat)
song in Ukrainian: Пісня
song in Walloon: Tchanson
song in Yiddish: ליד
song in Contenese: 歌
song in Chinese: 歌曲

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Brautlied, Christmas carol, English sonnet, Horatian ode, Italian sonnet, Kunstlied, Liebeslied, Petrarchan sonnet, Pindaric ode, Sapphic ode, Shakespearean sonnet, Volkslied, ado, air, alba, anacreontic, anthem, aria, art song, aubade, balada, ballad, ballade, ballata, barcarole, bel canto, blues, blues song, boat song, bother, bravura, bridal hymn, brindisi, bucolic, calypso, canso, canticle, canto, cantus, canzone, canzonet, canzonetta, carol, cavatina, chanson, chant, chantey, cheaply, choral singing, clerihew, coloratura, commotion, croon, croon song, crooning, cry, descant, dirge, dithyramb, ditty, drinking song, eclogue, elegy, epic, epigram, epithalamium, epode, epopee, epopoeia, epos, evasion, flap, folk singing, folk song, for a song, fuss, georgic, ghazel, haiku, hum, humming, hymeneal, hymn, idyll, inexpensively, intonation, jingle, lay, lied, lilt, limerick, line, love song, love-lilt, lyric, lyricism, madrigal, matin, measure, melodia, melodic line, melody, minstrel song, minstrelsy, monody, musical thought, narrative poem, national anthem, note, number, nursery rhyme, ode, operatic singing, palinode, pastoral, pastoral elegy, pastorela, pastourelle, performance, piece, poem, poesy, poetry, prevarication, prothalamium, refrain, rhyme, rondeau, rondel, roundel, roundelay, satire, scat, scat singing, serena, serenade, serenata, sestina, singing, sloka, sol-fa, sol-fa exercise, solfeggio, solmization, solo, solo part, sonnet, sonnet sequence, soprano part, strain, tale, tanka, tenso, tenzone, the supreme fiction, theme song, threnody, to-do, tonic sol-fa, torch song, treble, triolet, troubadour poem, tune, verse, verselet, versicle, villanelle, virelay, vocal music, vocalization, war song, warbling, wedding song, yodel, yodeling
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