English English language Etymology Expression Phrase origin Usage Word origin

Title tracking

Q: Is there a term for a song that has the same title as the album it’s on? Is it called the “titular track”?

A: Although the phrase “titular track” is sometimes used for such a tune, the most common terms are “title song” and “title track.”

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) says that when the word “title” is used as an adjective it can mean “having the same title as or providing the title for the collection or production of which it forms a part.” It gives this example: “the title song.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “title song” as “the song or track giving its name to a long-playing record.”

The OED’s earliest example is from the Jan. 6, 1961, issue of the British weekly magazine New Musical Express: “Am I that easy to forget … is the title song of a soft-sung album by Debbie Reynolds.”

Oxford defines “title track” (it hyphenates the term) simply as “title song.” The first citation in the dictionary is from the Feb. 21, 1970, issue of Melody Maker, a British weekly that merged with New Musical Express in 2000:

“It’s hard to believe that the same man who could write and play the extraordinary title track could also be responsible for ‘Spirits’ and ‘Search.’ ”

We’ve written a couple of posts about a related term, “eponymous,” which has traditionally referred to the person something is named for, as in “Hamlet is the eponymous hero of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.”

Modern dictionaries say the term can now refer to the named as well as the namer, as in “Hamlet is the eponymous title of Shakespeare’s play about Hamlet.”

Getting back to your question about a song with the same title as its album, here are the results of a few Google searches: “title song,” 14.1 million hits; “title track,” 10.3 million; “titular track,” 126,000; “titular song,” 22,400.

In case you’re wondering, the word “title” is quite old, dating back to Anglo-Saxon days. The OED says it was spelled titul in Old English and probably pronounced with a short “i” (as in “little”), similar to the short “i” in its Latin source, titulus (an inscription or a title).

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