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There is a word that I'm desperately trying to remember. I think it is used in the context of songwriting but it could be more general.

It describes the act of writing words to fit music, or to rhyme, rather than for the inherent meaning of the words.

For example, 'Don't take too much literal meaning from this song. The lyrics were written ________________.'

Sorry, I don't even know if it's a noun or an adjective. Does anyone have any idea?

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  • The word 'euphony' carries the sense << [noun] agreeableness of sound; pleasing effect to the ear, especially a pleasant sounding or harmonious combination or succession of words >> [Dictionary.com] but it does not carry the caveat '[often] at the expense or rationality'. You'd need 'The lyrics were written from a purely euphonic perspective'. Rhyme but not reason. Lyrical licence. Commented Apr 13, 2022 at 11:10
  • It's something that certain songwriters are accused of (e.g. Noel Gallagher), and many poems and songs include things that appear chosen purely for a rhyme; the more extreme version is non-lexical vocables i.e. nonsense words in songs, but that's not the right term here. I don't know a better descriptive term than "words chosen for their sound not their meaning".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 11:16
  • Try the word prosody, which means to fit the words to the melody. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosody_(music)
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 16:14
  • This has resurfaced. I'm reminded of – I'm fairly sure it was Brian May's response when asked about Bohemian Rhapsody in an interview many years after the premiere – 'What do the words mean? You're joking!' (or words to that effect). Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 17:00

3 Answers 3

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...the lyrics were written to scan

Scan means 'fit the line'.

Definition: scan - verb (POEM) If a poem or part of a poem scans, it follows a pattern of regular beats: This line doesn't scan - it has too many syllables.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/scan

There are several definitions for scan, scroll down to see the one I mention above.

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What about metrical?

pertaining to meter or poetic measure
source

"Don't take too much literal meaning from this song. The lyrics were written metrically."

Another example (my emphasis):

for he knew that if he had written metrically in Latin as the other poets of past times had done, he would only have done service to men of letters [..]
From: Vita di Dante, by Bocaccio, transl. by Philip H. Wicksteed. source

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  • Why the downvotes? This seems to be exactly what the OP is after.
    – Joachim
    Commented Apr 13, 2022 at 17:08
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    "Metrically" isn't a good answer because doesn't have the connotation of something that is written primarily to fit music with little thought of meaning: "metrical" or "metrically" refers to anything that has a meter. Lots of metrical things have very specific meanings, such as Shakespeare soliloquys.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 11:09
  • @StuartF True, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily meaningful, just that they have primarily been written to fit the meter (the OP requests the lyrics ".. to fit music, or to rhyme, rather than for the inherent meaning ..", not excluding these words from having any meaning at all).
    – Joachim
    Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 16:06
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This only captures part of your intended meaning, but you could say that the lyrics are just filler. Cambridge defines "filler" in this sense as:

something of lower quality included in a film, broadcast, speech, record, etc. in order to fill all the time or space

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