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90s Slang You Should Know


[vahy-uh l] /ˈvaɪ əl/
a bowed musical instrument, differing from the violin in having deeper ribs, sloping shoulders, a greater number of strings, usually six, and frets: common in the 16th and 17th centuries in various sizes from the treble viol to the bass viol.
Origin of viol
1475-85; < Middle French viole (akin to Old French viel(l)e > earlier English viele) < Old Provençal viola, derivative of violar to play the viola1 (perhaps imitative)
Can be confused
vial, vile, viol. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for viol
Historical Examples
  • Significant then, that he worshipped "the viol, the violet, and the vine" of Poe.

    Adventures in the Arts Marsden Hartley
  • In Greece and Albania, however, the viol would seem not to be used.

    The Science of Fairy Tales Edwin Sidney Hartland
  • Hither flock the jocund burgesses, and dance to the sound of harp and viol.

  • The artist is seen in the foreground playing a viol: Titian a bass viol.

    The Story of Paris Thomas Okey
  • He ceased: the strains of lute and viol died away, and that silence followed which is sweeter than any music.

    The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci Dmitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky
  • The second, instructions for the viol and also for the treble violin.

    The Violoncello and Its History Wilhelm Joseph von Wasielewski
  • He had scarcely recovered this shock (for it was a great one to him) when he heard Abel on the viol da Gamba.

    The Violin George Hart
  • Others, looking at the ceiling, sigh to the viol some German ballade.

  • She had a concert of "old music" with old instruments—spinet, viola, viol d'amour, etc.

    Letters of a Diplomat's Wife Mary King Waddington
  • Its tone (like that of all the viol class) was weak compared to the violoncello.

    Bach Charles Francis Abdy Williams
British Dictionary definitions for viol


any of a family of stringed musical instruments that preceded the violin family, consisting of a fretted fingerboard, a body rather like that of a violin but having a flat back and six strings, played with a curved bow. They are held between the knees when played and have a quiet yet penetrating tone; they were much played, esp in consorts, in the 16th and 17th centuries
Word Origin
C15: from Old French viole, from Old Provençal viola; see viola1
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 viol

musical instrument, late 15c., viel, from Middle French viole, from Old French, from Old Provençal viola (see viola).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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