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  1. Also called mouth organ. a musical wind instrument consisting of a small rectangular case containing a set of metal reeds connected to a row of holes, over which the player places the mouth and exhales and inhales to produce the tones.
  2. any of various percussion instruments that use graduated bars of metal or other hard material as sounding elements.

Origin of harmonica

noun use of feminine of Latin harmonicus harmonic; in the form armonica (< Italian < Latin) applied by Benjamin Franklin in 1762 to a set of musical glasses; later used of other instruments
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for harmonica

harp, harmonicon

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Historical Examples of harmonica

British Dictionary definitions for harmonica


  1. Also called: mouth organ a small wind instrument of the reed organ family in which reeds of graduated lengths set into a metal plate enclosed in a narrow oblong box are made to vibrate by blowing and sucking
  2. See glass harmonica

Word Origin for harmonica

C18: from Latin harmonicus relating to harmony
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

Word Origin and History for harmonica

1762, coined by Ben Franklin as the name for a glass harmonica, from Latin fem. of harmonicus (see harmonic); modern sense of "mouth organ" is 1873, American English, earlier harmonicon (1825).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper