Definition of virelay in US English:


(also virelai)


  • A medieval French lyric poem of indefinite length composed of stanzas of long lines rhyming with each other and short lines rhyming with each other, the short lines of each stanza furnishing the rhyme for the long lines of the next, with the short lines of the last stanza taking their rhyme from the short lines of the first.

    • ‘In this book are contained all the songs, ballads, roundelays and virelays, which that gentle duke had composed, and of them I had made this collection.’
    • ‘You have five days to write twelve sestinas, four limericks, and a Bulgarian variant of the virelay.’
    • ‘He had never dared to tell her his love, but he composed many songs, rounds, and virelays about the agonies of one who adores and is not loved in return.’
    • ‘Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll Scrawled over on some boyish holiday With idle songs for pipe and virelay, Which do but mar the secret of the whole.’
    • ‘The secular compositions include four Italian madrigals and nine ballate, two French virelays, and one Latin canon.’


Late Middle English: from Old French virelai.