one of the nonmetrical hymns or chants, chiefly from the Bible, used in church services.
a song, poem, or hymn especially of praise.

1175–1225; Middle English (< Old French) < Latin canticulum, equivalent to cantic(um) song (see canticum) + -ulum -ule Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To Canticle
World English Dictionary
canticle (ˈkæntɪkəl)
1.  a nonmetrical hymn, derived from the Bible and used in the liturgy of certain Christian churches
2.  a song, poem, or hymn, esp one that is religious in character
[C13: from Latin canticulum, diminutive of canticus a song, from canere to sing]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

mid-13c., from L. canticulum dim. of canticum "song," from cantus (see chant).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Encyclopedia Britannica


(from Latin canticulum, diminutive of canticum, "song"), a scriptural hymn text, used in various Christian liturgies, that is similar to a psalm in form and content but appears apart from the book of Psalms. In the Old Testament there are at least a dozen such hymns (called the cantica minora, or lesser canticles). A few of these are known to have been used by the Jews, in the services both at the Temple and at the synagogue. Of several New Testament canticles (the cantica majora, the greater, or Evangelical, canticles), three are used daily in the Roman Catholic rite: Benedictus (Luke 1: 68-79), the canticle of Zechariah, at Lauds; Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55), the canticle of the Virgin Mary, at Vespers; and Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2: 29-32), the canticle of Simeon, at Compline. The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England applies the word canticle only for the Benedicite, but, in practice, the term has been adopted for the psalms and hymns used daily in the Morning and Evening Prayers. A number of other texts not originating in the Bible are also generally regarded as canticles; these include the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, and the Te Deum, which has been one of the canticles of Morning Prayer in Anglican Church music since 1549. The term canticles is sometimes used as an abbreviation for Canticum canticorum (Song of Songs), an alternative name for the Song of Solomon, selections from which have been frequently used in the composition of motets.

Learn more about canticle with a free trial on

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Cite This Source
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature