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From Middle English dirige, from Latin dirige (steer, direct), from the beginning of the first antiphon in matins for the dead, Dirige, Domine, deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam. Doublet of dirige.



dirge (plural dirges)

  1. A mournful poem or piece of music composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person.
    Synonyms: lament, requiem, coronach, threnody, elegy, trental
    • c. 1599–1602 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene ii], page 153, column 2, lines 8–14:
      Therefore our ſometimes Siſter, now our Queen, / Th’ imperiall Ioyntreſſe of this warlike State, / Haue we, as ’twere, with a defeated ioy, / With one Auſpicious, and one Dropping eye, / With mirth in Funerall, and with Dirge in Marriage, / In equall Scale weighing Delight and Dole / Taken to Wife []
    • 1818, [Mary Shelley], chapter VII, in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. [], volume I, London: [] [Macdonald and Son] for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, →OCLC:
      While I watched the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific, I wandered on with a hasty step. This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits; I clasped my hands, and exclaimed aloud, “William, dear angel! this is thy funeral, this thy dirge!”
    • 1878 January–December, Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], published 1878, →OCLC:
      It was as if the night sang dirges with clenched teeth.
    • 2010 April 9, Glyn Maxwell, “WH Auden's ‘The Age of Anxiety’”, in The Guardian[1]:
      Over six sections – a prologue, a life-story, a dream-quest, a dirge, a masque and an epilogue – they meditate on their lives, their hopes, their losses, and on the human condition.
  2. (informal) A song or piece of music that is considered too slow, bland or boring.

Related terms[edit]



dirge (third-person singular simple present dirges, present participle dirging, simple past and past participle dirged)

  1. To sing dirges


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of dirige