What does descant mean?

Definitions for descant
ˈdɛs kænt; dɛsˈkænt, dɪs-des·cant

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word descant.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. descant, discantverb

    a decorative musical accompaniment (often improvised) added above a basic melody

  2. descantverb

    sing in descant

  3. yodel, warble, descantverb

    sing by changing register; sing by yodeling

    "The Austrians were yodeling in the mountains"

  4. descantverb

    talk at great length about something of one's interest


  1. descantnoun

    A lengthy discourse on a subject

  2. descantnoun

    a counterpoint melody sung or played above the theme

  3. descantverb

    To discuss at length.

  4. descantverb

    To sing or play a descant.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. DESCANTnoun

    Etymology: discanto, Italian.

    Nay, now you are too flat,
    And mar the concord with too harsh a descant. William Shakespeare.

    The wakeful nightingale
    All night long her amorous descant sung. John Milton, Par. Lost.

    Look you get a prayer-book in your hand,
    And stand between two churchmen, good my lord;
    For on that ground I’ll build a holy descant. William Shakespeare, Rich. III.

    Such kindness would supplant our unkind reportings, and severe descants upon our brethren. Government of the Tongue.

  2. To Descantverb

    Etymology: from the noun.

    Why I, in this weak piping time of peace,
    Have no delight to pass away the time;
    Unless to spy my shadow in the sun,
    And descant on mine own deformity. William Shakespeare, Richard III.

    Com’st thou for this, vain boaster, to survey me,
    To descant on my strength, and give thy verdict? John Milton.

    A virtuous man should be pleased to find people descanting upon his actions, because, when they are thoroughly canvassed and examined, they turn to his honour. Joseph Addison, Freeholder.


  1. descant

    Descant is a term used in music to describe a secondary melody that is sung or played above the primary melody or theme. It is often used in harmony with the main melody to add complexity and depth to the piece. Descant can also specifically refer to the counterpoint sung by the highest voices in choral music.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Descantverb

    originally, a double song; a melody or counterpoint sung above the plain song of the tenor; a variation of an air; a variation by ornament of the main subject or plain song

  2. Descantverb

    the upper voice in part music

  3. Descantverb

    the canto, cantus, or soprano voice; the treble

  4. Descantverb

    a discourse formed on its theme, like variations on a musical air; a comment or comments

  5. Descantverb

    to sing a variation or accomplishment

  6. Descantverb

    to comment freely; to discourse with fullness and particularity; to discourse at large

  7. Etymology: [OF. descant, deschant, F. dchant, discant, LL. discantus, fr. L. dis + cantus singing, melody, fr. canere to sing. See Chant, and cf. Descant, v. i., Discant.]


  1. Descant

    Descant or discant can refer to several different things in music, depending on the period in question; etymologically, the word means a voice above or removed from others. A discant is a form of medieval music in which one singer sang a fixed melody, and others accompanied with improvisations. The word in this sense comes from the term discantus supra librum, and is a form of Gregorian chant in which only the melody is notated but an improvised polyphony is understood. The discantus supra librum had specific rules governing the improvisation of the additional voices. Later on, the term came to mean the treble or soprano singer in any group of voices, or the higher pitched line in a song. Eventually, by the Renaissance, descant referred generally to counterpoint. Nowadays the counterpoint meaning is the most common. Descant can also refer to the highest pitched of a group of instruments, particularly the descant viol or recorder. Similarly, it can also be applied to the soprano clef. Descant can also refer to a high, florid melody sung by a few sopranos as a decoration for a hymn.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Descant

    des′kant, n. the air in a four-part song: a discourse or disquisition under several heads.—v.i. Descant′, to discourse at length: to comment. [O. Fr. descant—L. dis, apart, and cantus, a song—cantāre, to sing.]

Surnames Frequency by Census Records


    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Descant is ranked #66553 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

    The Descant surname appeared 297 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 0 would have the surname Descant.

    94.9% or 282 total occurrences were White.
    2.3% or 7 total occurrences were of two or more races.
    1.6% or 5 total occurrences were of Hispanic origin.

Matched Categories

How to pronounce descant?

How to say descant in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of descant in Chaldean Numerology is: 7

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of descant in Pythagorean Numerology is: 3

Popularity rank by frequency of use



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"descant." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 23 Jul 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/descant>.

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