Word of the Day Archive
Saturday August 27, 2005
descant \DES-kant\ , noun:
1. (Music) (a) A melody or counterpoint sung above the plain song of the tenor. (b) The upper voice in part music.
2. A discourse or discussion on a theme.
\DES-kant; des-KANT; dis-\, intransitive verb:
1. (a) To sing or play a descant. (b) To sing.
2. To comment freely; to discourse at length.
These to their nests,
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale;
She all night long her amorous descant sung.
-- John Milton, Paradise Lost
When they start on one of their polarised descants, whether on state education, water rates, crime, the BBC or whatever, they sound like a bumble bee and a wasp fighting in a jam jar.
-- Gillian Reynolds, "The biggest things to hit radio", Daily Telegraph, May 14, 1999
Mr. Ackroyd's descant on "Great Expectations" is the work of a master.
-- Alison Lurie, "Hanging Out With Hogarth", New York Times, October 11, 1992
In a custom associated with Athenian gatherings but almost certainly followed elsewhere as well, a myrtle branch was passed around the room, and each of the assembled would descant as the wine flowed.
-- David Barber, "Children of Orpheus", The Atlantic, June 10, 1998
The police amusingly descant on these jottings: "I can't believe he'd ever write a sentence like 'I shall be compelled to take steps to silence you!'"
-- Christopher Buckley, "The Chekhov of Coldsands-on-Sea", New York Times, November 16, 1997
Descant is derived from Medieval Latin discantus, "a refrain," from Latin dis- + cantus, "song," from the past participle of canere, "to sing."