See also: pæan



A statue of the Greek and Roman god Apollo, possibly an early work of Phidias, in the collection of the Museo delle Terme (now part of the National Roman Museum) in Rome, Italy.[1] In Ancient Greece a paean was originally a song – especially a thanksgiving or victory hymn – to Apollo, or sometimes another god or goddess.

From Latin paeān (a hymn, especially a victory hymn, to Apollo or another god), from Ancient Greek παιᾱ́ν (paiā́n, a chant or song, especially a thanksgiving or victory hymn, to Apollo under the name Παιᾱ́ν (Paiā́n)), from the phrase Ἰὼ Παιᾱ́ν (Iṑ Paiā́n, O Paean!, Thanks to Paean!). According to Homer, Paián or Paean was the name of the physician of the gods; its further etymology is unclear.[2] It has been suggested that Παιᾱ́ν is derived from *παιάϝων (*paiáwōn, one who heals illnesses through magic), from *παῖϝα (*paîwa), *παϝία (*pawía, to blow), related to παίω (paíō, to hit, strike) (from Proto-Indo-European *pēu-, *pyu-, *pū- (to hit; to cut)), or from παύω (paúō, to bring to an end; to abate, to stop) (from Proto-Indo-European *peh₂w- (few, little; smallness)), or that it may be a Pre-Greek word.[3]

Compare Middle French and French paean (also French péan), Italian peana, Portuguese peã, péan.



paean (plural paeans)

  1. (Ancient Greece, historical) A chant or song, especially a hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance or victory, to Apollo or sometimes another god or goddess; hence any song sung to solicit victory in battle.
    • 1773, W[illiam] Cooke, “The Life of Cyrus the Great”, in The Way to the Temple of True Honor and Fame by the Paths of Heroic Virtue: Exemplified in the Most Entertaining Lives of the Most Eminent Persons of both Sexes: On the Plain Laid down by Sir William Temple in His Essay of Heroic Virtue. In Four Volumes, volume II, Devizes, Wiltshire: Printed and sold by T. Burrough, bookseller; sold also by L[ockyer] Davis, over against Gray's-Inn-Gate, Holbourn, London, OCLC 863243647, page 64:
      In the mean time I am going to that part, whence I think it convenient for the battle to begin; and, as I paſs, ſhall consider how things are with reſpect to ourſelves. When I come there, and we are juſt ready to engage, I ſhall begin the Pœan;[sic] and do you follow.
    • 1795, Lucan; Nicholas Rowe, transl., “The Pharsalia of Lucan”, in The Works of the British Poets. With Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Robert Anderson, M.D., volume XII, London: Printed for John & Arthur Arch; and for Bell & Bradfute, and J. Mundell & Co. Edinburgh, OCLC 944171011, book VI, page 797, column 1:
      Oh, happy ſoldier! had thy worth been try'd, / In pious daring, on thy country's ſide! / Oh, had thy ſword Iberian battles known, / Or purple with Cantabrian ſlaughter grown; / How had thy name in deathleſs annals ſhone! / But now no Roman Pæan ſhalt thou ſing, / Nor peaceful triumphs to thy country bring, / [] Oh, hapleſs victor thou! oh, vainly brave! / How haſt thou fought, to make thyſelf a ſlave!
    • 1847, K[arl] O[tfried] Müller; George Cornwall [i.e., Cornewall] Lewis, transl., “Earliest Popular Songs”, in History of the Literature of Ancient Greece, to the Period of Isocrates. Translated from the German Ms. of K. O. Müller, Professor in the University of Gottingen (Library of Useful Knowledge), new corr. edition, London: Robert Baldwin, 47, Paternoster Row [published under the superintendence of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge], OCLC 15666465, pages 19–20:
      The pæans were songs, of which the tune and words expressed courage and confidence. [] Pæans were sung, not only when there was a hope of being able, by the help of the gods, to overcome a great and imminent danger, but when the danger was happily past; they were songs of hope and confidence as well as of thanksgiving for victory and safety.
  2. (by extension) Any loud and joyous song; a song of triumph.
    • 1833 February, “The Present Crisis in the United States”, in The Monthly Magazine, of Politics, Literature, and the Belles Lettres (New Series), volume XV, number LXXXVI, London: Published by Charles Tilt, 86, Fleet Street, OCLC 297766396, page 209:
      The dissolution of this great Republic, and the probable failure of the mighty experiments in government of which it has been the theatre, will be a fine subject for political parties to illustrate their various prejudices. The upholders of despotism will sing pæans over its downfall—the lovers of liberty will mourn over what appears to be the stern condition of man, to run alternately the career of improvement and of degeneracy— []
    • 1841, “The Journey”, in The Life and Times of Dick Whittington; an Historical Romance, London: Hugh Cunningham, St. Martin's Place, Trafalgar Square; Simpkin, Marshall and Co., Stationers' Hall Court; Edinburgh: Bell & Bradfute; Dublin: John Cumming; Glasgow: D. Campbell, OCLC 31575408, page 57:
      Long before they reached this place, which was situated at the other end of the village, they heard the pæan of May carolled by a hundred voices; and, on entering the area, they immediately joined in the chorus.
    • 1843, Dawes, “Intelligence Necessary to Perpetuate Independence”, in John E[py] Lovell, editor, The United States Speaker: A Copious Selection of Exercises in Elocution; consisting of Prose, Poetry, and Dialogue: Drawn Chiefly from the Most Approved Writers of Great Britain and America: Including a Variety of Pieces Suitable for Very Young Readers: Designed for the Use of Colleges and Schools, rev. and imp. stereotype edition, New Haven, Conn.: Published by S. Babcock, OCLC 223154672, page 27:
      But what tribute shall we bestow, what sacred pæan shall we raise over the tombs of those who dared, in the face of unrivalled power, and within the reach of majesty, to blow the blast of freedom throughout a subject continent?
  3. (by extension) An enthusiastic expression of praise.
    Synonyms: hymn, encomium, praise, tribute
    • 1843 February, I. D. W., “Association”, in James E. Ridgely, editor, The Covenant and Official Magazine of the Grand Lodge of the United States, I[ndependent] O[rder of] O[dd] F[ellows]: A Monthly Periodical Devoted to the Cause of Odd Fellowship, volume II, number 2, OCLC 877540713, page 68:
      The barbarian, wandering in nature's wilds, plucking the fruits as they grow, or destroying the game for his meat, and quenching his thirst with the waters of the gurgling rill, may furnish the poet with a theme for a pean to the goddess of Natural Liberty; but he will be a barbarian still, and his children after him, will roam over the same uncultivated wastes, and sleep in the same caves and dens, until they learn to associate with others and combine their efforts for mutual good.
    • 1991 August, J[ohn] A[shby] Baldwin[, Jr.], “Foreword”, in Philip D. Caine, Eagles of the RAF: The World War II Eagle Squadrons, Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, →OCLC, page ix:
      Unlike other accounts, Eagles of the RAF is not simply a paean to the pilots as special heroes and "aces," though many performed heroically and some sacrificed their lives.
    • 1992, Edward J. Williams; John T. Passé-Smith, “The Maquiladora Workers: Attitudes and Activities”, in The Unionization of the Maquiladora Industry: The Tamaulipan Case in National Context, San Diego, Calif.: Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias, San Diego State University, →ISBN, page 79:
      Mexico's ruling elites have long played up their supposed commitment to the nation's laboring masses. Article 123 of the 1917 Constitution promulgated the most advanced labor code of its time, and revolutionary rhetoric has always rung with paeans to labor.
    • 2007, Michael J. Mazarr, “The Existentialist Diagnosis”, in Unmodern Men in the Modern World: Radical Islam, Terrorism, and the War on Modernity, Cambridge; New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 81:
      Antimodern romanticism is not primarily a complaint about lost nature; it is mainly a pean to lost values. Modernity is relativistic, the existentialists complain; it has lost a sense of real values, true courage, meaningful integrity.
    • 2008, Paul F. Miller, “Introduction”, in Lost Newport: Vanished Cottages of the Resort Era, Bedford, Mass.: Applewood Books [in cooperation with The Preservation Society of Newport County], →ISBN, page 7:
      Veteran world travelers visiting Newport, Rhode Island, in the first years of the twentieth century were as impressed as neophytes by the sheer concentration of opulent summer villas ringing this old colonial seaport. Grand Duke Boris [Vladimirovich] of Russia's paean to the resort struck a characteristic chord: "I have never dreamed of such luxury as I have seen at Newport."

Alternative formsEdit

Derived termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See alsoEdit


paean (third-person singular simple present paeans, present participle paeaning, simple past and past participle paeaned)

  1. (transitive, rare) To sing a paean; to praise.
    • 1804, Joseph Story, “[Fugitive Poems:] Expostulation and Reply”, in The Power of Solitude. A Poem. In Two Parts, new and imp. edition, Salem, Mass.: Published by Barnard B. Macanulty, OCLC 925485899, page 211:
      Then let the pæaned hymn aspire, / Nor longer court unholy gloom; / Let happier music wake thy lyre, / Than haunts the precincts of the tomb.
    • 1812, Robert Treat Paine, Jr., “Eulogy on the Life of General George Washington”, in The Works, in Verse and Prose, of the Late Robert Treat Paine, Jun., Esq. With Notes. To which are Prefixed, Sketches of the Life, Character and Writings, Boston, Mass.: Printed and published by J. Belcher, OCLC 312130642, part IV (Prose Writings), page 329:
      Solemn, "as it were a pause in nature," was his [George Washington's] transit to eternity; thronged by the shades of heroes, his approach to the confines of bliss; pæaned by the songs of angels, his journey beyond the stars!
    • 1842, Angus Umphraville, “The Siege of Baltimore”, in W[illia]m McCarty, editor, Songs, Odes, and Other Poems, on National Subjects; Compiled from Various Sources, part III (Military), Philadelphia, Pa.: Published by Wm. McCarty, No. 27 North Fifth Street, OCLC 5091285, canto IV, stanza II, page 218:
      What harbinger victorious tidings brings, / And yonder soars on golden wings? / Beams on the solar god her bright undazzled eyes, / Proclaims with pæaning trump some hero to the skies!
    • 1907, J[ohn] F[rederick] C[harles] Fuller, “The Looking-glass”, in The Star in the West: A Critical Essay upon the Works of Aleister Crowley, London; Felling-on-Tyne, County Durham; New York, N.Y.: The Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd., OCLC 561048691, page 46:
      Yea, with gladness did they pæan, bowing low before my car, / In my ears their homage echoed from the sunrise to the star.
    • 1912 February, Lutie E[ugenia] Stearns, “The Books of 1911”, in Wisconsin Library Bulletin, volume 8, number 1, Madison, Wis.: Issued by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, ISSN 0043-6526, OCLC 21387170, page 19, column 1:
      Spring is the season of Nature's most lavish output—why not the publisher's also? Some may object that the output of the publisher does not resemble that of Nature; but this criticism seems to us to be trivial. The simple fact that Nature and the publisher are working together means everything. And therefore we are paeaning our paeans of literary joy. We celebrate books. We celebrate literary people. We hail authors and authoresses.


  1. ^ Ernest A[rthur] Gardner (1910; 1915 reprint) , “Phidias”, in Six Greek Sculptors (Library of Art), London: Duckworth and Co.; New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner's Sons, OCLC 1133263, plate XXXI facing page 115.
  2. ^ paean, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2005.
  3. ^ Robert [Stephen Paul] Beekes (2009) Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 10), Leiden: Brill, →ISBN, page 1142; see also pages 1144 and 1159.

Further readingEdit




From Ancient Greek παιᾱ́ν (paiā́n, chant, song of praise).



paeān m (genitive paeānis); third declension

  1. paean, specifically:
    1. (Ancient Greece, historical) Hymn to Apollo.
    2. (by extension) Hymn or song of victory or praise.


Third-declension noun.

Case Singular Plural
Nominative paeān paeānēs
Genitive paeānis paeānum
Dative paeānī paeānibus
Accusative paeānem paeānēs
Ablative paeāne paeānibus
Vocative paeān paeānēs
  • Alternative accusative singular form: paeāna


  • English: paean
  • French: péan
  • Italian: peana
  • Portuguese: peã