Finding common ground

I recently bought the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins at my local library book sale.

I was glancing through the book and becoming interested in the quirky information it contains, and decided to look up the word rhyme.

‘Both rhyme and rhythm come from the same source, Greek ‘rhuthmos’. Before it referred to a musical beat rhythm meant ‘rhyme’.

Adjacent to rhyme in the dictionary is rhapsody. I recognized rhapsody as a musical term, but I also found this interesting:

‘Rhapsody comes from Greek rhaptein ‘to stitch’, and its earliest sense carries the idea of words woven together.  In the 16th century a rhapsody was a long poem, like Homer’s Odyssey or Iliad, suitable for recitation. From this developed first the idea of a medley or collection … The musical sense developed in the late 19th century.’

This led me to start looking for terms shared by both music and speech. Here are some other words we use in Speech and Drama, which also seem to have a musical meaning:

  • accent
  • articulation
  • ballad
  • caesura
  • choral
  • consonance
  • form
  • improvisation
  • intonation
  • lyric
  • metre
  • modulation
  • octave
  • pause
  • phrasing
  • pitch
  • stanza
  • tone

I’m still adding to this list, and haven’t yet included all the terms related to breathing and voice production which are shared by singing and speech.

An interesting afternoon, finding common ground.


The Insect that Stole Butter? Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins
Julia Cresswell (ed), 2009
Oxford University Press


(The image above shows from left to right, Samuele Vaccaro, Starcia McNulty and Eva Vaccaro, students of Jan Skinner.)


Commenting area

  1. You know, I have never thought of those things being linked!
    I love the word Rhapsody and knowing it’s origins is super cool.
    Great find Bronwen!

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