Definition and background:
A group of many notes (usually at least five or six) sung melodically to a single syllable. Melismas are found especially in liturgical chant. passages with many notes (roughly, more than 8) for a single syllable. the technique of changing the note (pitch) of a syllable of text while it is being sungmulti note sometimes improvised vocal passage sung on a single syllable
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary