1510s, "to lift up" (the voice), probably from West Midlands dialect lulten "to sound an alarm" (late 14c.), a word of unknown origin. Possible relatives include Norwegian lilla "to sing" and Low German lul "pipe;" the whole loose group might be imitative. Sense of "sing in a light manner" is first recorded 1786. Related: Lilted; lilting. As a noun, 1728, "lilting song," from the verb. As "a rhythmical cadence," 1840.