Definition of descant in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdɛskant/
1 Music An independent treble melody sung or played above a basic melody.
Example sentences
  • 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.
  • In some hymnals a descant is provided for the refrain.
1.1 archaic or literary A melodious song: I hear the wood thrush piping one mellow descant more
More example sentences
  • 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.
2 literary A discourse on a theme: his descant of deprivation
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • These wonderful letters are a descant to the two recent major biographies.


Pronunciation: /dɪˈskant/
Pronunciation: /dɛˈskant/
[no object] literary
Talk tediously or at length: I have descanted on this subject before
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.


Late Middle English: from Old French deschant, from medieval Latin discantus 'part-song, refrain'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: des|cant

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