[noun, adjective des-kant; verb des-kant, dis-]


  1. a melody or counterpoint accompanying a simple musical theme and usually written above it.
  2. (in part music) the soprano.
  3. a song or melody.
a variation upon anything; comment on a subject.


Music (chiefly British ).
  1. soprano: a descant recorder.
  2. treble: a descant viol.

verb (used without object)

Music. to sing.
to comment or discourse at great length.

Also discant.

Origin of descant

1350–1400; Middle English discant, descaunt < Anglo-French < Medieval Latin discanthus, equivalent to Latin dis- dis-1 + cantus song; see chant
Related formsdes·cant·er, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for descant

comment, criticism, discussion, discourse, criticize, discuss

Examples from the Web for descant

Historical Examples of descant

British Dictionary definitions for descant


noun (ˈdɛskænt, ˈdɪs-)

Also: discant a decorative counterpoint added above a basic melody
a comment, criticism, or discourse

adjective (ˈdɛskænt, ˈdɪs-)

Also: discant of or pertaining to the highest member in common use of a family of musical instrumentsa descant recorder

verb (dɛsˈkænt, dɪs-) (intr)

Also: discant (often foll by on or upon) to compose or perform a descant (for a piece of music)
(often foll by on or upon) to discourse at length or make varied comments
Derived Formsdescanter, noun

Word Origin for descant

C14: from Old Northern French, from Medieval Latin discantus, from Latin dis- 1 + cantus song; see chant
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for descant

late 14c., from Old North French descant (Old French deschant), from Medieval Latin discantus "refrain, part-song," from Latin dis- "asunder, apart" (see dis-) + cantus "song" (see chant). Spelling was partly Latinized 16c. Originally "counterpoint."


mid-15c.; see descant (n.). Sense of "to comment at length" is first attested 1640s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper