In choral music, an anthem is typically associated with the English anthems. English anthems arose in the Anglican Church as the English counterpart of the Latin motet. Such anthems are typically based on or inspired by a particular scripture. They are non-liturgical, that is, they are not part of the prescribed rites of the church. A "full anthem" is entirely choral, while a "verse anthem" includes parts for solo singers.

Christopher Tye, Thomas Tallis, and William Byrd were some of the early innovators of the English anthem. Early English anthems were often patterned after the Latin motets. Indeed some of them were merely English text set to extant motets. In the latter part of the seventeenth century (i.e., the late 1600s), the Italian opera influence began to be felt, with composers such as Henry Purcell and John Blow writing verse anthems with several movements, as in cantatas. Since the 19th century, extracts from oratorios, masses, passions, etc., are commonly used as anthems, but these pieces are not anthems in the original sense of the term.