Length: French version – 51 words; English version – 63 words

Anthem lyrics (use the arrow on the left to collapse this section):
French lyrics:

Ô Canada!
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

English lyrics:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Historical context:

Canada’s national anthem is fully bilingual, in that there are two separate songs that constitute the country’s official anthem. (This differs from Suriname’s anthem, which is also bilingual but is one song with a verse in Dutch and another in Sranan Tongo.) The original was written in French, and various English versions were sung until an official version was selected in 1980. The French version has remained the same since it was written.

The English lyrics are not, however, a direct translation of the French original. Although the English version captures the spirit, cadence, and values of the original, it has a slightly different “meaning” in the sense of the concepts it expresses. The French version is somewhat more martial and religious in nature, mentioning the “sword” and the “cross,” which may reflect Quebec’s strongly Catholic roots.

Canada’s anthem may also be the most recently amended national song in the Americas. In 2018, the third line of the English version was made gender neutral. The new law changed “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.”

Government websites (like this one) display a “bilingual version” that mixes lines from each language, but the 2018 legislation does not specifically mention whether this version is “official.”


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