Elegy vs. eulogy

  • An elegy is a poem, song, or other work of art composed as a lament for someone who has died. A eulogy is a speech or written tribute praising someone who had died, especially one composed for that person’s funeral. Unlike elegy, which is often used figuratively or to describe a work of art with a mournful tone (and it gives rise to the adjective elegiac, meaning mournful), eulogy is almost always used literally.




    Occasionally, as with Laura Fraser’s beautiful, clear-eyed recent elegy for her lost lover, somebody hits it out of the park. []

    A eulogy written by Jobs’s sister, author Mona Simpson, shared that his last words were “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” [Washington Post]

    Poetry “makes nothing happen”, said Auden in his elegy for WB Yeats—but he was playing devil’s advocate. [London Evening Standard]

    Hours after delivering a eulogy at Thurman Munson’s funeral in Ohio, Bobby Murcer drove in all the runs in the Yankees’ dramatic, emotional 5-4 comeback win over the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. [Newsday]


    1. I disagree with the fifth example. I think the quote from the Jamaica Observer uses the word “eulogy” correctly. Although it is not a conventional eulogy, a “speech or written tribute,” it still conveys the same emotions (i.e. praise). “Elegy” suggests lament.

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