Choir - Hard to Say

Pronunciation | Vocabulary | Listenings


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The word choir is a difficult word to spell and to pronounce. In this lesson I’ll tell you what choir means, show you how to pronounce it with a standard British English accent, and give you some examples of its use. I’ll also look at other vocabulary which begins with CHO but do not necessarily have the same pronunciation such as chocolate, choir, choke, cholesterol, chondrite, choose, choosy, chop, choral, chord, chore, choreographer, chorister, chorizo, chortle, chorus, chosen, chough, chow, and chowder. You can also practice your knowledge of the IPA symbols and pronunciation with some IPA transcriptions of these CHO words.

From The OED on CD-ROM

choir, quire, n. (kwaɪə(r)) 

Forms: α. 3 quer, 3–6 quere, 4 queor, queyr, 4–6 queer, 5 qwer, 5–6 qwere, qweer, 6 queare, north. qwhere, where; 6–7 queere. β. 5–6 quyre, queyere, 6 quiere, quyer, 6–7 quiere, 6– quire. γ. 7– choir, (8 choire). 

[ME. quer, quere, a. OF. cuer choir of a church (mod.F. chœur):—L. chorus company of dancers, dance; company, band; (in med.L.) body of singers in church, place for singers in church; a. Gr. χορός dance, company of dancers or singers: cf. chorus. The change from ME. quēre, to quyer, quire, goes exactly with that of brere and frere to brier, friar. The spoken word is still quire, though since the close of the 17th c. this has been fictitiously spelt choir, app. as a partial assimilation to Gr.-L. chorus, or F. chœur. 

   The spelling quire has never been altered in the English Prayer-book. Some people affect to pronounce choir (kɔɪə(r)).] 

1.1 The organized body of singers in cathedral or church service. †a.1.a The clergy of a cathedral or collegiate church engaged in performing the church service: formerly more or less coextensive with chapter. Obs. 

   c 1300 St. Brandan 305 Tuelf other freres of the queor.    c 1305 E.E.P. (1862) 82 Alle þe Canouns of þe queor.    1518 Wriothesley Chron. (1875) I. 12 The Bishop of London, with all Powles quier, receaued him.    1556 Chron. Gr. Friars 75 The qweer of Powlles had a commandment from the dene.

b.1.b The band of singers who perform or lead the musical part of the service in a church or chapel.

   A cathedral choir consists of the vicars choral or minor canons, lay-clerks, and choristers. This body is divided into two sets of voices sitting in the south and north sides of the chancel, called respectively decani and cantoris (i.e. dean's and precentor's side) who sing antiphonally. (But in some cases the positions are reversed.) 

   c 1380 Wyclif Wks. (1880) 192 Whanne þer ben fourty or fyfty in a queer þre or foure‥lorellis schullen knacke þe most deuout seruyce þat noman schal here þe sentence.    1553 T. Wilson Rhet. 76 b, The Chaunter‥made the whole quier, that then was redy for syngyng, to fall streight a laughyng.    1597 Morley Introd. Mus. 156 To haue plaide it on the organes with a quier of singing men.    1632 Milton Penseroso 162 Let the pealing organ blow To the full voic'd quire below.    1795 Mason Ch. Mus. iii. 207 Singing Men, much less singing Women, as a separate Choir made no part in the‥orders, which St. Peter and St. Paul had‥appointed.    1823 Byron Juan xiii. lxii, The silenced quire.    1869 Ouseley Counterp. xiv. 91 In writing for two choirs, it is always desirable to make the harmony of each choir complete.    1880 Grove Dict. Mus. s.v., ‘Choir’ is‥used for the singers in churches of all kinds; and for the portions into which a chorus is divided when the composition is written for two, three, or any other number of ‘choirs’.    1884 F. M. Crawford Rom. Singer I. 24 The choir answers from the organ loft.

†c.1.c transf. The singers in the Jewish temple; also, in a heathen temple. Obs. 

   1382 Wyclif Judg. ix. 27 The querys maad of syngers, thei wenten into the temple of her god.    ― Neh. xii. 39 Two queris of men preisende stoden in the hous of God.    1651 Hobbes Leviath. iii. xxxiii. 202 The Psalmes were written‥for the use of the Quire.    1697 Dryden Virg. Georg. iv. 546 The bright Quire their kindred Gods invoke.

2. a.2.a That part of a church appropriated to the singers; spec. the part eastward of the nave, in which the services are performed, separated from the rest of the building by a screen or screens, usually of open work; the chancel. (Now so called chiefly in cathedrals and such large churches as show the cathedral or minster type.) 

   1297 R. Glouc. 4593 (Rolls) At glastinbury his bones suþþe me fond. & þere at-uore þe heye weued · amydde þe quer ywis.    1375 Barbour Bruce xx. 293 In a fair towme in the queyr.    a 1450 Le Morte Arth. 3138 In A chapelle, Amydde the quere, That bold baron they beryed thare.    1480 Robt. Devyll 30 He went‥Towardes the quyere.    1480 Caxton Chron. Eng. ccli. 322 He lyeth worshipfully in a new chapel on the south-syde of the quyre.    1535 Fisher Wks. i. 366 Comming to the quire.    Ibid. 367 Quyer.    1549 Prayer Bk. Edw. VI, Morn. Pr. Rubric, The priest beyng in the queer shall begynne wyth a loude voyce the Lordes prayer.    1568 Grafton Chron. II. 256 Buried in the Quier, or upper parte of Paules Churche.    1591 Vestry Bks. (Surtees) 266 The forme on the north side of the queare.    1635 Brereton Trav. (1844) 115 Divine service‥is performed in the quire or chancel.    1662 Bk. Com. Prayer, Morn. & Even. Prayer Rubric, In Quires and Places where they sing, here followeth the Anthem.    1708 Kersey, Choir, the Quire of a Church, that part of it where Divine Service is said or sung.    1751 Chambers Cycl., In nunneries, the choir is a large hall, adjoining to the body of the church; separated by a grate, where the religious sing the office.    1815 Wordsw. White Doe i. 112 Can she be grieved for quire or shrine Crushed as if by wrath divine?    1874 Parker Illust. Goth. Archit. i. iv. 102 St. Hugh's choir of Lincoln Cathedral is the earliest building of the pure Gothic style‥that has been‥found in Europe.    1875 ― Gloss. Archit. s.v. Church, The name of chancel and choir became synonymous, but usage now generally confines the name of choir to the cathedrals or large churches.    1875 B. Taylor Faust iv. iii. II. 269 The rising‥sun already lights the choir.

transf.    1600 Shakes. Sonn. lxxiii, Those boughes which shake against the could Bare ruin'd quiers, where late the sweet birds sang.

†b.2.b Phrase. to keep one's choir (cf. to keep chapel). Obs. Prov. to rob the church to mend the choir, etc. 

   c 1400 Sowdone Bab. 566 Fye, preest‥Go home and kepe thy Qwer.    c 1510 Barclay Mirr. Gd. Mann. (1570) ciij, Uncouer not the Church, therewith to mende the quere.    1514 ― Cyt. & Uplondyshm. (1847) 17 Some pill the churche, therewith to leade the quere.    1516 Will of R. Peke, Test. Ebor. V. 74 All other clarkes that kepes daly ther where ijd.    Sc. Proverb, He rives the kirk to theik the quire.

†c.2.c lady quire: = Lady chapel. Obs. 

   1512 Test. Ebor. (Surtees) V. 36 To be buried‥in the Lady qwere.    1550 in Peacock Eng. Ch. Furniture (1866) 166 Ye alter in our lady gwerre‥ye alter in nycholas gwerre.

†d.2.d As a place for the church-buckets. 

   1651 Cleveland Poems, Rebell Scot, Not all the buckets in a Countrey Quire Shall quench my rage.    1666 Dryden Ann. Mirab. ccxxix, Some run for buckets to the hallow'd Quire.

3. a.3.a gen. A company of singers; spec. an organized body of singers who perform at concerts, etc.; a choral society or institution. 

   a 1553 Udall Royster D. v. vi. (Arb.) 86 Let me fet your quier, that we may haue a song.    1595 Pedler's Prophecie, We foure will make an honest quere; I will follow, if the Pedler will begin.    1663 Cowley Verses & Ess. (1669) 116 What Princes Quire of Musick can excell That which within this shade does dwell?    1770 Langhorne Plutarch (1879) I. 566/1 The choirs which the cities sent to sing the praises of Apollo.    1832 G. Downes Lett. Cont. Countries I. 107 A choir of fair singers of Brientz usually accompanies the party.    1880 Grove Dict. Mus. II. 261 During this winter [1827–8] Felix [Mendelssohn]‥formed a select choir of 16 voices, who met at his house on Saturday evenings.

b.3.b transf. and fig. of angels, birds, echoes, etc. 

   1592 Shakes. Ven. & Ad. 840 Still the quier of ecchoes answer.    1626 Bacon Sylva §253 Where Eccho's come from severall Parts‥they must‥make as it were a Quire of Eccho's.    1628 Sir J. Beaumont Bosworth F. 115 Like bright Apollo in the Muses Quires.    1667 Milton P.L. xii. 366 They‥by a Quire Of squadrond Angels hear his Carol sung.    1672–5 T. Comber Comp. Temple i. x. §3 The great Mystery of the Trinity, which the Celestial Choir own by their Trisagium.    1704 Addison Italy (1733) 186 Feather'd Quires that warbled in the shade.    1880 E. White Cert. Relig. 82 As if a quire of angels filled the firmament with their songs.

c.3.c (See quot. 1909.) Chiefly U.S. 

   1909 Cent. Dict., Choir,‥a group of instruments of the same class‥, as a trombone choir.    1955 R. Blesh Shining Trumpets (ed. 3) xii. 277 The sluggish swing mechanism, with its brass and reed choirs.

4.4 Each of the nine orders of angels in the heavenly hierarchy. 

   1642 R. Carpenter Experience iii. iv. 17 Say‥that there are nine Orders, or Quires of Angels.    1667 Milton P.L. iii. 666 Hath brought me [Satan] from the Quires of Cherubim Alone thus wandring.    1848 Kingsley Saint's Trag. iv. ii. 222 My report Shall‥win the quires of heaven To love and honour him.

5.5 Cf. chorus n. 1. a.5.a A band of dancers, or of dancers and singers (in ancient heathen worship, etc.). 

   1656 Cowley Pindar. Odes (1669) 21 Lo how the Years to come, a numerous and well-fitted Quire, All hand in hand do decently advance, And to my song with smooth and equal measure dance.    1764 Goldsm. Trav. 243 How often have I led thy sportive choir With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire.    1818 Shelley Rev. Islam iii. xxiii, Like a quire of devils, Around me they involved a giddy dance.

†b.5.b A dance (or ? a carol). Obs. rare. 

   1535 Coverdale Lam. v. 14 Our mery quere [1611 our dance] is turned in to mourninge.

6.6 gen. An organized company or collection, a band (of persons, or fig. of things); sometimes with the idea of rhythmical motion or regular order as of dancers. (Cf. chorus n. 2.) 

   1382 Wyclif Song Sol. vi. 13 Queres of tentes [Lat. choros castrorum].    1590 Shakes. Mids. N. ii. i. 55 And then the whole quire hold their hips, and loffe.    1622 Bacon Hen. VII, 105 The King euer willing to put himselfe into the Consort or Quire of all religious Actions.    1692 Ray Creation i. 52 The Hypothesis of every fixt Stars being a Sun‥and having a Quire [1704 choire] of Planets‥moving about him.    Ibid. ii. (1704) 309 Nature which hath so skilfully ranked and disposed this Quire of our Teeth.    1855 Kingsley Glaucus (1878) 12 The whole choir of cosmical sciences.

7.7 Comb., as in choir-house, choir-service; (in sense 2) choir-aisle, choir-chapel, choir-crypt, choir-door, choir-screen, choir-side, choir-stall; choir-boy, a boy who sings in a choir, a chorister; †choir-cope, a cope worn by a member of a choir; choir-master, a leader or director of a choir; choir nun or sister, a member of a female religious society who is professed for the choir (i.e. to perform the choir offices), distinguished from lay sister; choir offices, the divine service which is said or sung in choir (i.e. the canonical hours, morning and evening prayer of the Book of Common Prayer); choir-pitch (Mus.), see quot.; choir practice, the trial or performance of set pieces of music by a choir, under the instruction of the choir-master; choir school, a school for choir-boys that is maintained by a cathedral or large church; so choir scholar; choir-wise adv., in the manner of a choir, antiphonally. See also choir-man, -organ. 

   1848 B. Webb Cont. Ecclesiol. 24 It is cruciform, with an apse, but has no retrochoir or *choir-aisles.

   1837 Thackeray Ravenswing vii, He had been a *choir-boy.

   a 1300 Saints Lives (1887) 227 Monekes‥yreuested faire and in *queor-copes.    1853 Rock Ch. Fathers III. ii. 250 All the canons and clerks‥took off the black choir-copes and arose clad in surplices.

   1879 Sir G. Scott Lect. Archit. II. 29 Here‥we have still remaining the *choir-crypt.

   1513 Test. Ebor. V. 48 Afore the *quere dore in the church of Est Drayton.    1591 Vestry Bks. (Surtees) 266 The seconde stall from the queare doore.

   1883 Pall Mall G. 27 Dec. 2/1 The boys in the Abbey choir‥boarded in a *choir-house.

   1860 Ramsay Remin. (1874) p. xlv, Choirs have been organized with great effect by *choir-masters of musical taste and skill.

   1788–9 in Cath. Rec. Soc. Publ. (1910) VIII. 187 The Number of Religious at this time are 13 *choir Nuns 3 lay sisters & 3 novices.

   1876 St. Cross, Holywell, Parish Mag. 277 The choral cope worn on ferias in large churches by all the clergy at the *choir offices.    1898 Daily News 26 Aug. 5/1 The canons are‥free in all acts outside those of the choir offices.

   1852 Seidel Organ 22 Organs‥tuned either in the so-called chamber-pitch‥or in the *choir-pitch, which was a whole tone higher.

   1865 F. Helmore Ch. Choirs 65 In *Choir Practice‥let the Choir-master‥insist on constant attention to the movements of his ‘baton’.    1904 E. F. Benson Challoners vi, This afternoon‥she would have to take choir-practice in the Room.

   1873 C. M. Yonge Pillars of House I. xx. 192 He is in the *choir school at Minsterham Cathedral.    Ibid. II. xvii. 137 You and Harewood can be retained as choir scholars for another year.    1958 Times 23 June 9/4 A match between the Fellows of Kings and the Choir School.

   1643 Cromwell Lett. 10 Jan. (Carlyle), I require you to forbear your *choir-service.    1774 T. Warton Eng. Poetry (1840) III. 161 That part of our choir-service called the motet or anthem.

   1889 A. Devine Convent Life iv. iv. 298 A Lay-Sister cannot be transferred to the state of a *Choir-Sister without the authority of the Holy See.

   1661 Heylyn Hist. Ref. ii. v. 59 A song sung *Quire-wise‥Moses as Chanter.


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