I'm working on a project that involves breaking a set of lyrics into “sections,” by splitting on double line breaks. Later on in the process, each section will be categorized as a verse, chorus, or bridge. However, I'm having trouble coming up with a generic word that accurately describes the uncategorized sections.

Most of the lyrics are hymn texts, though some of the lyrics are from more contemporary-style songs.

Is there a standard word in English that can be used for the “sections” of a set of lyrics or a hymn text? Is each section considered a paragraph? A singular “lyric”? A stanza or strophe?

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    Jul 24, 2021 at 0:06

2 Answers 2


If you don't like section, the other term used by people in the music biz is part.


The most popular songs tend to follow familiar patterns. While it’s possible to compose epic suites where no two parts are the same (looking at you, Dream Theater), most pop music sticks to traditional structures.


So, what are the structures often used in songwriting? First, let’s look at the parts that make up most songs... Chorus: The catchiest part of any song...

This can also be confused with the different usage of part which describes what each instrument is playing/vocalist is singing during each section, which is more common:


ABAB Form. This form, called “binary structure” involves toggling back and forth between a verse section and a chorus section.

ABABCB Form. This is also known as “verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus” form. In this style of composition, the A section is the verse, the B section is the chorus, and the C section is the bridge.


A bridge in songwriting is a section that differs melodically, rhythmically, and lyrically from the rest of the song.

Fretboard Anatomy

Perhaps the most basic aspect of music theory is giving names to the sections of a song.


Let’s put some labels for these sections and define the common things that occur in each section

So, according to the music industry, section is the way to label the segments of a song with different music.

  • Thanks for your answer. I'm not fully satisfied with the word "section" because it's generic. For example, someone could speak of 2–3 verses in a row as being a "section" of the song – for example, if they're about the same topic. Or if the first half of the song has a certain rhythm, then the rhythm changes, the song has two "sections." It's not specific enough to unambiguously mean the individual verses and choruses. "Part" is generic too. In the context of music, "part" often means the instrument or voice, for example, the soprano part or the trombone part. Maybe there isn't a better word. Jul 25, 2021 at 1:43
  • @SamuelBradshaw This is the term people in the business use to refer to verses, choruses, bridges, etc. collectively. The term that can refer to a motif or just a few lines is a (musical) passage. That's much more flexible than section. Jul 25, 2021 at 2:06

Hymns are written in verses, and if there are lines to be repeated after each verse, these are called the refrain and are often printed in italics immediately after the first verse only. It's not necessary to print them again: the singers will know what to do.

The actual labels "verse" and "refrain" don't often appear in hymn books as they're not needed. More contemporary songs might use them though, and in this context the word chorus might be more appropriate than the rather old-fashioned refrain. (Or the even older-fashioned burthen/burden found in Shakespeare.)

If you need to describe different sections of the music, you can call them sections, as GArthurBrown says, and a linking passage (with different material in) might well be a bridge; without lyrics it might be marked instrumental.

What do you mean by "splitting on double line breaks"? Are you talking about double barlines?

  • By "splitting on double line breaks" I mean splitting the hymn text / lyrics where there's a blank line, after each verse or chorus – working with the words themselves, rather than the sheet music. For example, a typical set of lyrics might look something like this: azlyrics.com/lyrics/donmoen/itiswellwithmysoul.html So I have a program that chops the text into "sections" based on where the blank lines are. Jul 25, 2021 at 1:13
  • To clarify further, the above-linked example would have 6 "sections" – still lacking a better word. "Section" is ambiguous, in that it could just as easily mean the first and second half of the song, or a few lines with a verse – it's not specific enough to always mean verses and refrains/choruses. 3 verses + 3 choruses = 6 [what]? Jul 25, 2021 at 1:53
  • @Samuel Bradshaw: There's no word for it. "Stanza" is closer than "strophe", but neither's correct. So you're free to make up a name for them! Blocks? Chunks? Won't you be the only person using this word? The expression "verse-chorus pair" might be useful. But remember there are rare hymns that introduce something new, usually towards the end. "3 verses + 3 choruses = 6 [what?]" We'd just say "This hymn has three verses!" 3 brides + 3 grooms = 6 what? 3 horses + 3 riders = 6 what?! Jul 28, 2021 at 11:14
  • @Samuel Bradshaw: Btw. Sorry for the delay. If you want to draw someone's attention you can start your message with an 'at'-sign and the person's username. Then a little light comes on near their Inbox icon. These two messages of mine will have alerted you the same way. Welcome to EL&U! Jul 28, 2021 at 11:22

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