Tragedy, etymological features

(Greek: tragoidia, a compound of tragos, "goat" and aeidein, "to sing"; goat song)

Reasons for calling this dramatic form, "goat song", are obscure

The word tragedy developed in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. as a result of the performances of the original lyric recitations.

  • It is generally believed that the origin of tragedy came from Greek tragoidia, a compound of tragos, "goat", and aeidein, "to sing".
  • A dramatic poem or play in formal or stately language and action having an unhappy resolution; literally, "goat song".
  • Theories have been proposed to explain the connection with a goat.
  • One being that the actors or singers in Greek tragedies were originally dressed in goatskins to represent satyrs (goat-like woodland deities), and thereby became actors in satyric drama from which tragedy was later developed.
  • Alternatively, a goat might have been the prize for the best acting performance.
  • The generalized sense of a part of drama that deals with or includes tragedies is first recorded in Middle English in 1412-20.
  • The figurative sense of an unhappy event, calamity, or disaster, is found in 1509.
—Based on information from
Webster's Word Histories; Merriam-Webster, Inc., Publishers;
Springfield, Massachusetts; 1989; page 471.

Tragedy words. The unit of tragedy words.