a funeral song or tune, or one expressing mourning in commemoration of the dead.
any composition resembling such a song or tune in character, as a poem of lament for the dead or solemn, mournful music: Tennyson's dirge for the Duke of Wellington.
a mournful sound resembling a dirge: The autumn wind sang the dirge of summer.
Ecclesiastical. the office of the dead, or the funeral service as sung.

Origin of dirge

1175–1225; Middle English dir(i)ge < Latin: direct, syncopated variant of dīrige (imperative of dīrigere), first word of the antiphon sung in the Latin office of the dead (Psalm V, 8)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dirge

Contemporary Examples of dirge

Historical Examples of dirge

  • Sometimes, by way of providing a varied entertainment, they sing a dirge.

  • But it was only the cold wind from the mountains whistling a dirge.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • It was a dirge, which he was intoning as he bent over the cookstove.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • "Neither did he," he observed, and began to whistle what sounded like a dirge.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • The entrance to the room where the Bella figlia had been succeeded by a dirge, was blocked.

    The Paliser case

    Edgar Saltus

British Dictionary definitions for dirge



a chant of lamentation for the dead
the funeral service in its solemn or sung forms
any mourning song or melody
Derived Formsdirgeful, adjective

Word Origin for dirge

C13: changed from Latin dīrigē direct (imperative), opening word of the Latin antiphon used in the office of the dead
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 dirge

early 13c., dirige (current contracted form is from c.1400), from Latin dirige "direct!" imperative of dirigere "to direct," probably from antiphon Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam, "Direct, O Lord, my God, my way in thy sight," from Psalm v:9, which opened the Matins service in the Office of the Dead. Transferred sense of "any funeral song" is from c.1500.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper