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Middle English (denoting the Office for the Dead): from Latin dirige! (imperative) ‘direct!,’ the first word of an antiphon (Psalm 5:8) used in the Latin Office for the Dead.

dirige (current contracted form is from c.1400), from Latin dirige "direct!" imperative of dirigere "to direct," probably from antiphon Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam, "Direct, O Lord, my God, my way in thy sight," from Psalm v:9, which opened the Matins service in the Office of the Dead. Transferred sense of "any funeral song" is from c.1500.


  • 1: a lament for the dead, especially one forming part of a funeral rite.
  • 2: a mournful song, piece of music, or poem: singers chanted dirges | figurative : the wind howled dirges around the chimney.


A brief hymn or song of lamentation and grief; it was typically composed to be performed at a funeral. In lyric poetry, a dirge tends to be shorter and less meditative than an elegy. See Christina Rossetti’s “A Dirge” and Sir Philip Sidney’s “Ring Out Your Bells.”