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[hahrp-si-kawrd] /ˈhɑrp sɪˌkɔrd/
a keyboard instrument, precursor of the piano, in which the strings are plucked by leather or quill points connected with the keys, in common use from the 16th to the 18th century, and revived in the 20th.
Origin of harpsichord
First recorded in 1605-15, harpsichord is from the New Latin word harpichordium (with intrusive -s- of obscure origin). See harp, -i-, chord1
Related forms
harpsichordist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for harpsichord
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I am very fond of books and music; my harpsichord was my delight.

    The Memoires of Casanova, Complete Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
  • There are interesting old books on the virginals, harpsichord, and spinet.

    The Book-Hunter at Home P. B. M. Allan
  • She moved towards the harpsichord and dropped into the chair that served it.

    The Lady of Loyalty House Justin Huntly McCarthy
  • Pepusch and Handel played the harpsichord and the organ there.

    Sketch of Handel and Beethoven Thomas Hanly Ball
  • He plays the Fiddle well, the harpsichord well, the Violoncello well.

    The Violin George Hart
  • If you will accompany me, Baron von Walter, I will try a piece on the harpsichord!

    Love and Intrigue Friedrich Schiller
  • Beethoven was put at the harpsichord at the age of four years.

    ZigZag Journeys in Northern Lands; Hezekiah Butterworth
  • Such an instrument has been made, and called the 'harpsichord harmonica.'

    Stories of Invention Edward E. Hale
  • The same may be said with regard to the harpsichord, from Frescobaldi to Clementi.

    The Violin

    George Dubourg
British Dictionary definitions for harpsichord


a horizontally strung stringed keyboard instrument, triangular in shape, consisting usually of two manuals controlling various sets of strings plucked by pivoted plectrums mounted on jacks. Some harpsichords have a pedal keyboard and stops by which the tone colour may be varied
Derived Forms
harpsichordist, noun
Word Origin
C17: from New Latin harpichordium, from Late Latin harpaharp + Latin chordachord1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for harpsichord

1610s, from French harpechorde "harp string," from Modern Latin harpichordium (cf. Italian arpicordo), from harpa (see harp (n.)) + chorda "string" (see cord). The -s- is unexplained, but it is attested in the earliest English forms.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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harpsichord in Culture

harpsichord definition

A stringed keyboard instrument much used in the baroque era in music. The keys of a harpsichord move small devices that pluck the strings; the strings are not struck with hammers, as in a piano. Thus, although harpsichords often look much like pianos, their characteristic tinkly sound is unlike that of the piano, and a harpsichordist cannot change the volume of the sound by striking the keys harder, as a pianist can.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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