I have a word on the tip of my tongue, but I’m not sure what it is. I’ve checked synonyms of words to see if something matched what I was thinking, but I can’t figure it out. I used Google’s generic thesaurus and “One Word” thesaurus.

A term for a message, song or poem that is sad but intense. Like a psalm or lament(as a noun) but without the connotation of numbness or lack of action. Something more desperate, almost soulful. Wrenching, yearning, woeful. Like a word to describe a dialogue reaction to deep injustice. I swear there is a word that captures this accurately, but I can’t think what it is.

A sample sentence would be something like: “After thinking about [some type of injustice], John let out a blank(as a noun)” or “After thinking about [some type of injustice] John released a blank(as an adjective) song(or exclamation)” or perhaps phrased differently. Sorry if this is a bit confusing, but that’s why I need help defining it!

  • 1
    bare one’s soul comes to mind.
    – stevesliva
    Oct 31, 2021 at 4:49

2 Answers 2


In literature there is the term elegy (noun) or elegiac (adjective):

a sad poem or song : a poem or song that expresses sorrow for someone who is dead (M-W)

Yet it can be used by extension to describe 'woeful' situations without someone having died:

elegiac: wistfully mournful.

  • She watched repeat serials, fixed on their moody and elegiac characterization.(OxfordL)

Edit: After your comment I thought of the adjective inconsolable which has some dynamic to it since whatever the person does, they cannot be consoled.

Harrowing is more extreme:

extremely upsetting because connected with suffering:

  • I appreciate your response, but it’s not the word I’m looking for. I actually already use the word mournful in the title for my question. Mournful is good, with the connotation of sadness, but it lacks the desperation that I feel is essential to the word I’m thinking of. Elegy is also good, and another one that appeared in the thesaurus when I originally searched for synonyms, but I think it has the same problem as mournful. I think elegy and mournful are too calm, too tame. I need a word with more intensity. Imagine the difference between a tragic symphonic piece, and a sorrowful piano solo.
    – Sam Sabin
    Oct 20, 2021 at 8:01
  • Why not use 'tragic'? Although it seems to strong for an injustice...
    – fev
    Oct 20, 2021 at 8:03
  • tragic is pretty strong, but it seems to imply an accident, or something preventable. It’s not what I’m looking for.
    – Sam Sabin
    Oct 20, 2021 at 15:00
  • Harrowing is much closer to the emotion. Not exactly what I’m looking for but much closer.
    – Sam Sabin
    Oct 20, 2021 at 15:42
  • Then think of agonizing or (heart)wrenching. "Wrench" means a forceful rotating or pulling motion for the purpose of dislodging something so the metaphor is quite dynamic.
    – fev
    Oct 20, 2021 at 16:07

For something more intense than mournful, perhaps:

After thinking about [some type of injustice] John moved those present with a heartrending song.

heartrending (adj.)

Causing great sadness or distress. Lexico

Causing intense sorrow or emotional anguish; evoking deep compassion; deeply distressing or moving. OED

Heartbreaking m-w

  • heartrending is quite good. It’s not exactly what I’m thinking of but it’s the closest to capturing what I’m trying to say so far. +1 from me
    – Sam Sabin
    Oct 20, 2021 at 15:43

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