I am not a native English speaker. I look for a proper English word for a “re-lyricized” song. I mean the case when someone writes his own lyrics for a melody of a well-known song. For example, if I take the melody of The Beatles’ Yesterday and sing it with my own lyrics like “Funny thing, let me sing a really funny thing…” (or any other words that fit the melody). It is not a parody as such, because I have no intention to mock or imitate The Beatles; the lyrics are not related to the original song, its author or performers.

I have heard this kind of songs in stand-up comedy and student performances. What is the word for this? A skit, a cover, a rendition, maybe a filk?


You can call it a lyrical adaptation or a parody depending on the nature of content.

Parody refers specifically to a humorous or satirical adaptation of a musical composition.

Rendition on the other hand refers to a specific version or interpretation (rendering) of the musical composition.

Skit, take-off and filk are used primarily to refer to humorous or satirical adaptations but do not necessarily involve revision of lyrics only.

  • Thanks a lot. But what is the difference between skit and take-off? Could you give some examples of both?
    – user53236
    Oct 1 '13 at 23:33
  • As far as I'm aware these words are used for satirical theatrical sketches rather than for musical compositions.
    – user49727
    Oct 1 '13 at 23:45

The word you might be looking for is contrafactum.

From Wikipedia:

In vocal music, contrafactum (pl. contrafacta) is "the substitution of one text for another without substantial change to the music".

  • Hey Simon, please provide a link to the quote.
    – jimm101
    Aug 28 '18 at 12:45

When I was younger I helped a couple of local bands write songs. Their producers would have me do rewrites (saying my lyrics were not what he wanted or up to his standards) and also handed over other songs that already had lyrics asking for a rewrite. Again these were not "popular" songs and they wanted them released with different lyrics. There was a year or two of my life that rewrite was the last word I wanted to hear.


I'm not aware of there being a single word that directly carries the meaning you are looking for. But there are a number of ways that you could refer to it.

You could refer to it as an 'adaptation'. If you want something with more style, or perhaps with a slight suggestion of a judgement, you could say it was an 'appropriation" of the melody.

'Parody' might not directly apply, because your intention isn't to be funny, satirical etc. That said, when the melody is well known, as in your example, and would be immediately recognizable even with the new lyrics, I think the word parody could be appropriately used, since part of the effect or 'charm' of what your doing is derived from a comparably parody-like recognition on the part of the listener, and on the way in which they listen: to some extent they will be hearing the original "underneath" your version, and comparing the two, and in doing that, the meaning of and their feelings about the original will color their reception of your adaptation/appropriation of the melody. That is in effect what happens with parody, where the contrast between the original and the new is what produces much of its effect. Conventional parody plays it more explicitly for laffs, but I don't think the word would be terribly misapplied if applied in the example you gave.

I imagine that most people would reach first for 'parody' to describe it, and that few would heavily quibble with it, which in some sense makes it correct.

Depending on the particulars, I might say that I had "appropriated" the melody -- making the composite words and music an 'appropriation' -- just because the word contains so many overtones concerning the correctness, propriety, appropriateness, ethics, legality, etc., of what what's taking place, without actually endorsing any of those interpretations. Otherwise, and less flamboyantly, I would say I adapted (adopted!?) or borrowed the melody. In this context, they all mean essentially the same thing. The choice would be based on the kind of attention you wanted to call to it, and on what kind of comment, if any, you wanted to make on it.

And you could always refer to it as a rewrite.

  • Hmmm...'appropriated' seems to have a rather negative connotation. 'Adapted/adaptation' is nice and neutral. Oct 2 '13 at 2:58

You may be looking for the word "pastiche." It can refer generally to a blending of sources and motifs, but it can also refer specifically to a traditional tune being set to new words.

  • Basic definitions and their sources are always appreciated.
    – vickyace
    Apr 17 '17 at 17:56

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