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[vur-juh-nl] /ˈvɜr dʒə nl/
Often, virginals. a rectangular harpsichord with the strings stretched parallel to the keyboard, the earlier types placed on a table: popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Origin of virginal2
First recorded in 1520-30; apparently special use of virginal1
Related forms
virginalist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for virginals
Historical Examples
  • There are interesting old books on the virginals, harpsichord, and spinet.

    The Book-Hunter at Home P. B. M. Allan
  • After dinner, in her privy-chamber, he gave her a fair pair of virginals.

  • I could as soon have looked to see Moses play the virginals.

    Joyce Morrell's Harvest Emily Sarah Holt
  • Sometimes she hunted, your Majesty, and sometimes she played upon the virginals.

    A Ladder of Swords Gilbert Parker
  • Bull is most favourably known as a composer for the virginals.

    Twelve Good Musicians Frederick Bridge
  • "plays well on the lute and virginals, sings from book at sight," etc.

    Shakespeare and Music Edward W. Naylor
  • The first music ever printed for the virginals was 'Parthenia,' published in London, 1611.

    Shakespeare and Music Edward W. Naylor
  • There came a sound of music too, as one touched the virginals to a tune of my own country.

    A Monk of Fife Andrew Lang
  • Speak, sweeting, since I love thee best of late, And have forsook my virginals for thee.All's beautiful indeed and all unsure?

    One-Act Plays Various
  • We have no precise evidence concerning the original wire gauges of the strings of Italian harpsichords and virginals.

British Dictionary definitions for virginals


of, relating to, characterized by, proper to, or maintaining a state of virginity; chaste
extremely pure or fresh; untouched; undefiled
Derived Forms
virginally, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Latin virginālis maidenly, from virgō virgin


(often pl) a smaller version of the harpsichord, but oblong in shape, having one manual and no pedals
Derived Forms
virginalist, noun
Word Origin
C16: probably from Latin virginālisvirginal1, perhaps because it was played largely by young ladies
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 virginals

"small harpsichord," 1520s, evidently from virgin, but the connection is unclear, unless it means "an instrument played by girls."



early 15c., from Old French virginal or directly from Latin virginalis, from virgin (see virgin). The keyed musical instrument so called from 1520s, but the reason is obscure (see virginals).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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