Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I don’t understand how to use of the word lyrics. I would like to know how it is used by a native English speaker.

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary says: lyric noun (also lyrics) the words of a song.

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary says: the words of a song ― often used in plural.

So, I can guess that lyric could be used as a singular word, but I want to be sure that it is commonly used.

When we talk about what a singer says in a song we are talking about the lyrics.

By using the Internet, I can download all the lyrics of an artist. What happens if I want just one? I will download one lyric, the lyrics of one song or both ways are correct?

I read that the word lyric is related to poems but what happens in this case.

Likewise, in the context menu of some lyrics software, if I want to edit the lyrics of a song, which is the best option "edit the lyric" or "edit lyrics"?

share|improve this question
    
Pretty sure most dictionaries should explain this. Which one failed to do so, that we might disrecommend it in future? –  tchrist Nov 6 '12 at 16:21
    
This question can be improved by meeting the research requirement. It is at risk of being closed, and ultimately deleted. –  MετάEd Nov 6 '12 at 16:24
    
I would like to know how it is used by a native speaker. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary says: lyric (also lyrics) the words of a song. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary says: the words of a song ― often used in plural. So, I can guess that lyric could be used as a singular word, but I want to be sure that it is commonly used. –  Ivan Nov 6 '12 at 16:43
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm going to attempt to answer this question specifically in the context of modern American colloquial usage of lyric and lyrics, specifically in the sense of words sung in a song, since that appears to be OP's focus. I'm basing this on personal experience on (i.e., countless hours of discussing music with friends).

I'd define the common usage of the word lyric (singular) as:

a cohesive group of the words in a song, esp. a phrase, line, couplet or verse

Typically, a lyric is a standalone unit containing words of a song - a piece of the whole. Often the piece is distinct enough that it may standalone outside the context of the song and still make (some) sense.

Lyrics (plural) would refer to multiple such units. In general, a single song has multiple pieces: lines, verses, etc. As @AndrewLeach noted in his comment, one would refer to all of the words of a song as the lyrics of a song.

Here are some examples:

Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home takes its name from the Bob Dylan lyric: "How does it feel / To be on your own / With no direction home / Like a complete unknown / Like a rolling stone?"

He loved the lyrics to "Like a Rolling Stone."

He's a fan of Bob Dylan's lyrics.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Lyric can be an adjective or a noun. See ODO for example, reproduced below. Where you found that "lyric is related to poetry" it would be used as an adjective, I expect.

adjective

1 (of poetry) expressing the writer’s emotions, usually briefly and in stanzas or recognized forms: lyric poems of extraordinary beauty denoting a writer of lyric poetry: the lyric poets of Ancient Greece
2 (of a singing voice) using a light register: a lyric soprano with a light, clear timbre

noun (usually lyrics)

1a lyric poem or verse: an edition of Horace’s Lyrics
[mass noun] lyric poetry as a literary genre: stylistic categories fundamental to literary aesthetics—epic, lyric, drama, comedy, tragedy
2 the words of a popular song: she has published both music and lyrics for a number of songs

A publishing house might refer to a particular lyric meaning the words of a single, particular, song, precisely to differentiate it from lyrics in general. But that's a particular usage which might not be evident from a dictionary entry (and isn't really apparent in ODO).

It's definitely an ordinary countable noun, so it's a lyric (meaning a single song) or the lyrics of a song; and you can't *edit lyric because that needs an article before lyric.

share|improve this answer
    
So, continuing with my example, I will download one lyric. And then, I can edit the lyric. Is that correct? –  Ivan Nov 6 '12 at 16:36
4  
Yes, but it's an unusual and specialised usage to use lyric to mean a single song rather than the phrase lyrics of a song. In general, use lyrics and rely on context to determine whether it means the words of a particular song, or (say) all the words in an opera or musical. –  Andrew Leach Nov 6 '12 at 16:55
add comment
  • Lyrical- pertaining to theatre, drama, poetry, and artful use of speech.

  • Lyrics- Words to a song.

  • Lyre- ancient stringed instrument often accompanied by song.

  • Lyric- Thus I don't think this is a word.

share|improve this answer
    
PLEASE punctuate your answers and break them into proper sentences and paragraphs. –  TrevorD Aug 10 '13 at 16:21
    
Also please do not simply write answers based on how you think things are without even bothering to check a dictionary. ‘Lyric’ is most certainly a word, as any dictionary worth its salt (and even some not quite worth their salt) will tell you. While this answer does address the etymology of ‘lyric’ and is therefore not without merit, its answer to the actual question at hand is incorrect. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 11 '13 at 8:10
    
The question was whether it is common to use the word 'lyric' in the singular sense to refer to songs/ The answer is no, which if I answered it this way, my answer would be too plain and add no further interest. I helped out by adding where lyrics is commonly used: in the theatre, and that it comes from the word lyre. I also spoke the truth- the word 'lyric' is not commonly used in the english language, which is what the original question was, I must remind you. –  Julie Aug 11 '13 at 9:48
    
My comment box will not allow me to create paragraphs on any and all of my comments that I have posted in the past 2 days since I have registered on this site. I have tried multiple times to create paragraphs and when I press the save button, all of my sentences get pressed together automatically, so it is not my fault, but this website's. –  Julie Aug 11 '13 at 9:51
    
@Julie Agreed the answer box editing tools are not the most intuitive in the world, but if you take the time to sit, explore the help pages, read, you will find ways round the formatting limitations. If I managed, anyone can! See this link for further help. english.stackexchange.com/help/formatting –  Mari-Lou A Aug 11 '13 at 21:30
show 1 more comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.