• rhapsody •
ræp-sê-di • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An epic poem or major part of one; 2. A work of art composed of miscellaneous pieces strung together. 3. An exalted expression of feeling lacking logic or structure, such as a piece of music or literature.
Notes: Today's melodious word comes from a musical family: the adjective is rhapsodical and the verb is rhapsodize. The wanderers who recited the odes of Homer and Hesiod by heart, preserving them for posterity, are generally referred to as rhapsodists. Charles Swinburne, however, in one of his essays published in 1867, wrote, "There has been since Chaucer no second teller of tales, no second rhapsode, comparable to the first."
In Play: Today our word refers most frequently to an effusive panegyric as opposed to a reasoned exposition: "Our presentation should be a rhapsody of New Monia as the perfect location for a medical center rather than a detailed economic analysis of the town." Rhapsodies run more on enthusiasm than organized thought: "Patsy spun such a rhapsody of her family life that no one believed her."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin rhapsodia "a section of an epic poem" from Greek noun rhapsoidia, based on the verb rhapsoidein "to recite poems". This word is a compound containing the stems of rhaptein, rhaps- "to sew" + oide "song", ancestor of English ode. So, the original notion was one of sewing songs together into larger epics, not too far removed from our notion of stringing verses together. (No, today's word is not even remotely related to rap. Rap is a matter of chanting words on the same musical note.)
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