a. A funeral hymn or lament.
b. A slow, mournful musical composition.
- A mournful or elegiac poem or other literary work.
- Roman Catholic Church The Office of the Dead.
Origin of dirge
Middle English an antiphon at Matins in the Office of the Dead from
Medieval Latin dīrige Domine direct, O Lord (the opening words of the antiphon) imperative of dīrigere to direct
; see direct
Related Forms:Word History:
The Office of the Dead is a traditional ecclesiastical office (a cycle of prayers) of the Roman Catholic Church that is sung or recited for the repose of the soul of a deceased person. Although the form of this ancient ritual has varied through the ages, in medieval times it consisted of a vespers service, a requiem mass, and a following service of matins and lauds. The traditional liturgical language of the Roman Catholic Church is Latin, and the first antiphon of the matins service of the Office of the Dead consists of the Latin words “Dīrige, Domine,”
“Direct, O Lord,” a shorter version of a phrase occurring later in the liturgy, “Dīrige, Domine, Deus Meus, in cōnspectū tuō viam meam,”
“Direct, O Lord, my God, my way in thy sight.” In Middle English, the matins of the Office came to be called dirige,
after the opening word of the service. Dirige
could also be used to refer to the entire Office of the Dead, not just the matins service, and the word was often shortened to dirge.
Later, in the 1500s, dirge
began to take on the more general senses of “a funeral hymn or lament” and “a mournful poem or musical composition.”
- A mournful poem or piece of music composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person.
From the beginning of an antiphon in the Latin requiem (Dirige, Domine, deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam)