One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1An independent treble melody usually sung or played above a basic melody.
- ‘In some hymnals a descant is provided for the refrain.’
- ‘A soaring girl soprano descant adds another heavenly layer to the already rich texture.’
- ‘The song is presented in three arrangements - in three parts with descant, in one part with a descant and in three parts without a descant and there is also a recording of the instrumental backing without singers.’
- ‘Jacques told me that everyone was in such awe when I sang it, no one would sing the descant while I was at college.’
- ‘During the descant finale, however, instinct won out.’
- 1.1literary, archaic A melodious song.
- ‘Intoxicated with the idea, she ran through many a melodious descant, till, touching on the first strains of 'Thusa ha measg na reultan mor', she saw Wallace start from his contemplative position, and with a pale countenance leave the room.’
- 1.2 A discourse on a theme or subject.‘his descant of deprivation’
- ‘It was an enjoyable evening but the danger of where we seem to be going kept reasserting itself like a descant to the pleasant sound of casual conversation.’
- ‘These wonderful letters are a descant to the two recent major biographies.’
- ‘I had been going to mark the 1000th posting here with a descant on futility and failure, as is traditional on New Year's Eve.’
Talk tediously or at length.‘I have descanted on this subject before’
- ‘It is a pleasure to hear my refugee patients descant on that great historical achievement.’
- ‘When he has begun to descant on a subject which interests his morbid feelings, he knows not when to pass to another.’
- ‘At one point, prior to descanting on conservatism with a small ‘c’, she says sharply, ‘Don't interrupt me during this bit ’, but I didn't really mind - it gave me time to eat.’
Late Middle English: from Old French deschant, from medieval Latin discantus ‘part-song, refrain’.
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