Lyrics (in singular form lyric) are a set of words that make up a song. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist or lyrist. The meaning of lyrics can either be explicit or implicit. Some lyrics are abstract, almost unintelligible, and, in such cases, their explication emphasizes form, articulation, meter, and symmetry of expression. The lyricist of traditional musical forms such as Opera is known as a librettist.

Lyric derives from the Greek word λυρικός lyrikos, meaning "singing to the lyre".[1] A lyric poem is one that expresses a subjective, personal point of view.

The word lyric came to be used for the "words of a song"; this meaning was recorded in 1876.[1] The common plural (perhaps because of the association between the plurals lyrics and words), predominates contemporary usage. Use of the singular form lyric to refer to a song's complete set of words is grammatically acceptable. However it's not considered acceptable to refer to a singular word in a song as a lyric.


Poems as lyrics

The differences between poem and song may become less meaningful where verse is set to music, to the point that any distinction becomes untenable. This is perhaps recognised in the way popular songs have lyrics.

However, the verse may pre-date its tune (in the way that "Rule Britannia" was set to music, and "And did those feet in ancient time" has become the hymn "Jerusalem"), or the tune may be lost over time but the words survive, matched by a number of different tunes (this is particularly common with hymns and ballads).

Possible classifications proliferate (under anthem, ballad, blues, carol, folk song, hymn, libretto, lied, lullaby, march, praise song, round, spiritual). Nursery rhymes may be songs, or doggerel: the term doesn't imply a distinction. The ghazal is a sung form that is considered primarily poetic. See also rapping, roots of hip hop music.

Analogously, verse drama might normally be judged (at its best) as poetry, but not consisting of poems (see dramatic verse).

Copyright and royalties

See Royalties

Currently, there are many websites featuring song lyrics (e.g. This offering, however, is controversial, since some sites include copyrighted lyrics offered without the holder's permission. The U.S. Music Publishers' Association (MPA), which represents sheet music companies, launched a legal campaign against such websites in December 2005, the MPA's president, Lauren Keiser, said the free lyrics web sites are "completely illegal" and wanted some website operators jailed.[2]

Lyrics licenses could be obtained in North America through one of the two aggregators; Gracenote Inc. and LyricFind.[3] The first company to provide legal lyrics was Yahoo, quickly followed by MetroLyrics. More and more lyric websites are beginning to provide legal lyrics, such as SongMeanings.

Many competing lyrics web sites are still offering unlicensed content, causing challenges around the legality and accuracy of lyrics.[4] In the latest attempt to crack down illegal lyrics web sites a federal court has ordered LiveUniverse, a network of websites run by MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan, to cease operating four sites offering unlicensed song lyrics.[5]

Academic study

  • Lyrics can be studied from an academic perspective. For example, some lyrics can be considered a form of social commentary. Lyrics often contain political, social and economic themes as well as aesthetic elements, and so can connote messages which are culturally significant. These messages can either be explicit or implied through metaphor or symbolism. Lyrics can also be analyzed with respect to the sense of unity (or lack of unity) it has with its supporting music. Analysis based on tonality and contrast are particular examples. Former Oxford Professor of Poetry Christopher Ricks famously published Dylan's Visions of Sin, an in-depth and characteristically Ricksian analysis of the lyrics of Bob Dylan; Ricks gives the caveat that to have studied the poetry of the lyrics[6] in tandem with the music would have made for a much more complicated critical feat.
  • Chinese lyrics (詞) are Chinese poems written in the set metrical and tonal pattern of a particular song.

Riskiest search

McAfee claims searches for phrases containing "lyrics" and "free" are the most likely to have risky results from search engines.[7]

See also


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • lyrics — ● lyrics nom masculin pluriel (anglais lyrics) Parties chantées d un film ou d une œuvre dramatique. ● lyrics (homonymes) nom masculin pluriel (anglais lyrics) lyrique adjectif …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • lyrics — [n] words of a song book, libretto, lines, text, theme, verse, words; concepts 264,595 …   New thesaurus

  • lyrics — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ hip hop, pop, rap, song ▪ poetic ▪ confessional, heartfelt, insightful, introspective …   Collocations dictionary

  • Lyrics — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Cet article a pour sujet Lyrics. Pour une définition du mot « lyrics », voir l’article lyrics du Wiktionnaire. Lyrics est un mot d origine… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lyrics — Ein Liedtext (auch Liedertext) ist die Grundlage zur Entstehung bzw. Komposition eines Liedes. Er ist meist in einem durchgängigen Versmaß gehalten und gibt wenn er gute Qualität besitzt dem Lied seine rhythmische Struktur. Umgekehrt ist es auch… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lyrics — Liedtext; Liedertext; Text; Songtext * * * Ly|rics 〈Pl.; Mus.〉 Liedtext [engl.] * * * Ly|rics [ lɪrɪks ] <Pl.> (Fachspr.): Text eines Liedes, Songs o. Ä. (in der Popmusik). * * * Lyrics   [englisch, lɪrɪks], englische …   Universal-Lexikon

  • lyrics — plural noun Cole Porter wrote the music and lyrics Syn: words, libretto, book, text, lines …   Thesaurus of popular words

  • lyrics — noun /ˈliɹ.ɪks/ The words to a song (or other vocal music). See Also: lyricist …   Wiktionary

  • Lyrics — LyricsMusik:Text,Liedtext,Musiktext,Schlagertext …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

  • Lyrics — Ly|rics 〈Pl.; Musik〉 Liedtext [Etym.: engl.] …   Lexikalische Deutsches Wörterbuch

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