one of the divine twins (brother of Pollux), also the name of the alpha star of Gemini, Latin, from Greek Kastor, perhaps literally "he who excels." They were sons of Tyndarus, king of Sparta (but in post-Homeric myth of Zeus in the form of a swan) and Leda.
1670s, "a song," especially one slow and monotonous, from chant (v.), or else from French chant (12c.), from Latin cantus "song, a singing; bird-song," from past participle stem of canere. Meaning "a Gregorian melody," usually of medieval origin, is from 1789. Meaning "monotonous recitation of words" is from 1815.
In medieval music, canto fermo (1789, from Italian, from Latin cantus firmus "fixed song") was the ancient traditional vocal music of the Church, so called because set by authority and unalterable. After time other voices were added above and below it.
c. 1400, deschaunt, "a counterpoint added to a given melody," from Anglo-French deschaunt, Old French deschant, from Medieval Latin discantus "refrain, part-song," from Latin dis- "asunder, apart" (see dis-) + cantus "song, a singing; bird-song," from past participle stem of canere "to sing" (from PIE root *kan- "to sing").
The English spelling was partly Latinized in 16c., but it is an exception for its retention of des- in English. It is attested from 1560s in the sense of "the art of composing part-music," also "the upper part or voice." It is attested from 1570s as "a warbled song, a song with various modulations." The transferred sense of "a continued discourse or series of comments on a subject" is recorded from 1590s.
A metaphor taken from musick, where a simple air is made the subject of a composition, and a number of ornamented variations composed upon it. [Hensleigh Wedgwood, "A Dictionary of English Etymology," 1859]
1837, "a melodic decoration consisting of the prolongation of one syllable over a number of notes," from Greek melisma "a song, an air, a tune, melody," from melos "music, song, melody; musical phrase or member," literally "limb," a word of uncertain origin. Related: Melismatic.
in classical poetry, a verse in elegiac meter; of later works, "a mournful or plaintive poem, a poem or song expressive of sorrow and lamentation, a funeral song," 1510s, from French elegie, from Latin elegia, from Greek elegeia ode "an elegaic song," from elegeia, fem. of elegeios "elegaic," from elegos "poem or song of lament," later "poem written in elegiac verse," which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from a Phrygian word. In, and partly due to, Gray's "Elegy in a County Churchyard," it has also a sense of "a serious poem pervaded by a tone of melancholy," whether mourning or grieving or not. Related: Elegiast.