Good-hearted people deserve to be remembered in special words. You must have come across beautiful words as a tribute to the deceased, sometimes as an elegy, at others, a simple eulogy. There is, however a subtle difference.
An elegy is a lamenting poem, couplet or a song written in the memory of a deceased person. If used in a musical context, it refers to a composition that has a melancholy tone to it. An elegy has a tone of remorse for the loss of a person.
A eulogy is a tribute in the form of an essay or short prose, written in praise of the dead. A eulogy has a tone of respect and accolades as to how good the person was while s/he lived.
The word ‘elegy’ can be traced back to its Greek and Latin roots where it was used in a variety of subject matters, including but not restricted to inscription on tombstones.
Eulogy as a word was initially used in Classic Greek for remembering the dead by praising them and honoring the life they lived.
The word elegy comes from the Latin elegia and the Greek elegeia (ode) can be traced back to being used as far back as 1514. Elegaic means “a song of lament.”
The word eulogy comes from Eulogia: Greek for Eulogy, used in the mid 15th century. Eulogia (praise) stems from eu- (well) + -logia (speaking) or legein (speak). Eu legein meant "speak well of."
An Elegy written by Thomas Gray:
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Eulogy written for comedian Bob Hope by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein:
On the desk of the Oval Office, President Truman kept under glass the one-word telegram Bob sent him following his dramatic upset of Tom Dewey. It read: "unpack." When another President - Abraham Lincoln - died in the house across the street from Ford's Theater, his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, standing at Lincoln's side, said "Now he belongs to the ages." The same is equally true of Bob Hope. He is not America's - he is the world's. He belongs not to our age, but to all ages. And yet, even though he belongs to all time and to all peoples, he is our own, for he was quintessentially American. - U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein Aug. 27, 2003