A song's paroles are the words that tell a story in music. Whether written before or after the music, lyricists try to express a message that is relevant to the subject of the song and that can evoke an emotion in the listener. Often, the songwriter will use tools such as alliteration and rhyme to create a strong sense of rhythm in their writing.

The word 'lyric' derives from the Greek words lurikos lyrikos, "singing to the lyre". It originally referred to a poem or prose written for lyre play, but its use as a term for the 'words of a song' was first attested in 1876. The plurale tantum form 'lyrics' was introduced in the 1930s and has predominated in contemporary usage.