AskDefine | Define ballad

Dictionary Definition



1 a narrative song with a recurrent refrain [syn: lay]
2 a narrative poem of popular origin [syn: lay]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A long song or poem that tells a story.
    The poet composed a ballad praising the heroic exploits of the fallen commander.
  2. A slow romantic pop song.
    On Friday nights, the roller rink had a time-block called "Lovers' Lap" when they played nothing but ballads on the overhead speakers.



love song or poem that tells a story
  • Albanian: baladë
  • Finnish: balladi
  • German: Ballade
  • Hebrew: בָּלָדָה (balada)
  • Russian: баллада
slow romantic pop song
  • Albanian: baladë
  • Finnish: balladi
  • German: Ballade
  • Spanish: balada

Extensive Definition

A ballad is a poem usually set to music; thus, it often is a story told in a song. Any myth form may be told as a ballad, such as historical accounts or fairy tales in verse form. It usually has foreshortened, alternating four-stress lines ("ballad meter") and simple repeating rhymes, often with a refrain.
If it is based on a political or religious theme, a ballad may be a hymn. It should not be confused with the ballade, a 14th and 15th century french verse form.

Broadsheet ballads

see also Child Ballads Broadsheet ballads (also known as broadside ballads) were cheaply printed and hawked in English streets from the sixteenth century. They were often topical, humorous, and even subversive; the legends of Robin Hood and the pranks of Puck were disseminated through broadsheet ballads.
New ballads were written about current events like fires, the birth of monstrous animals, and so forth, giving particulars of names and places. Satirical ballads and Royalist ballads contributed to 17th century political discourse. In a sense, these ballads were antecedents of the modern newspaper.
Thomas Percy, Robert Harley, Francis James Child, Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg were early collectors and publishers of ballads from the oral tradition, broadsheets and previous anthologies. Percy's publication of Reliques of Ancient Poetry and Harley's collections, such as The Bagford Ballads, were of great import in beginning the study of ballads.

Literary ballads

Literary ballads are those composed and written formally. The form, with its connotations of simple folkloric authenticity, became popular with the rise of Romanticism in the late 18th century. Literary ballads may then be set to music, as Schubert's Der Erlkönig and The Hostage, set to a literary ballads by Goethe (see also Der Zauberlehrling) and Schiller. In Romantic opera a ballad set into the musical texture may emphasize or play against the theatrical moment. Atmospheric ballads in operas were initiated in Weber's Der Freischütz and include Senta's ballad in Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer, or the 'old song' 'Salce' Desdemona sings in Verdi's Otello. Compare the stanza-like structure and narrative atmosphere of the musical Ballades for solo piano of Chopin or Brahms.

Ballad opera

A particularly English form, the ballad opera, has as its most famous example John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, which inspired the 20th-century cabaret operas of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (q.v.). Ballad strophes usually alternate between iambic tetrameter and iambic pentameter, though this is not always the case.

Popular song

In the 20th Century, "ballad" took on the meaning of a popular song "especially of a romantic or sentimental nature" (American Heritage Dictionary). Casting directors often divide songs into two categories: "ballads" (slower or sentimental songs) and "up" tunes (faster or happier songs). A power ballad is a love song delivered with power often using rock instruments.
ballad in Bulgarian: Балада
ballad in Catalan: Balada
ballad in Czech: Balada
ballad in Welsh: Baled
ballad in Danish: Ballade
ballad in German: Ballade
ballad in Esperanto: Balado
ballad in Spanish: Balada
ballad in Finnish: Balladi
ballad in French: Ballade
ballad in Hebrew: בלדה
ballad in Hungarian: Ballada
ballad in Japanese: バラッド
ballad in Dutch: Ballade
ballad in Norwegian: Ballade
ballad in Polish: Ballada
ballad in Portuguese: Balada
ballad in Romanian: Baladă
ballad in Russian: Баллада
ballad in Slovak: Balada
ballad in Slovenian: Balada
ballad in Swedish: Ballad
ballad in Tagalog: Balada
ballad in Ukrainian: Балада
Possible or

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Brautlied, Christmas carol, English sonnet, Horatian ode, Italian sonnet, Kunstlied, Liebeslied, Petrarchan sonnet, Pindaric ode, Sapphic ode, Shakespearean sonnet, Volkslied, alba, anacreontic, anthem, art song, aubade, balada, ballade, ballata, barcarole, blues, blues song, boat song, bridal hymn, brindisi, bucolic, calypso, canso, canticle, canzone, canzonet, canzonetta, carol, cavatina, chanson, chant, chantey, clerihew, croon, croon song, dirge, dithyramb, ditty, drinking song, eclogue, elegy, epic, epigram, epithalamium, epode, epopee, epopoeia, epos, folk song, georgic, ghazel, haiku, hit, hit tune, hymeneal, idyll, jingle, lay, lied, light music, lilt, limerick, love song, love-lilt, lyric, madrigal, matin, minstrel song, minstrelsy, monody, narrative poem, national anthem, nursery rhyme, ode, palinode, pastoral, pastoral elegy, pastorela, pastourelle, poem, pop, pop music, popular music, popular song, prothalamium, rhyme, rondeau, rondel, roundel, roundelay, satire, serena, serenade, serenata, sestina, sloka, song, song hit, sonnet, sonnet sequence, tanka, tenso, tenzone, theme song, threnody, torch song, triolet, troubadour poem, verse, verselet, versicle, villanelle, virelay, war song, wedding song
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