Jew's harp

or Jews' harp

  1. (sometimes lowercase) a small, simple musical instrument consisting of a lyre-shaped metal frame containing a metal tongue, which is plucked while the frame is held in the teeth, the vibrations causing twanging tones.

Origin of Jew's harp

First recorded in 1585–95; perhaps jocular; earlier called Jew's trump Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use Jew's harp in a sentence

  • I don't think much of a feller that would cheat a man out of a jews-harp 'cause he liked to fool with it.

    Sevenoaks | J. G. Holland
  • One of us pretended he was playing on a Jews-harp, sang songs riotously, and then began to talk long and earnestly of New York.

    The Sea and the Jungle | H. M. Tomlinson
  • He had brought along a mouth harmonica, and Hans had a jews-harp.

    The Rover Boys Down East | Arthur M. Winfield
  • He drew a Jews-harp from under his blouse and began blowing into it.

    Bouvard and Pcuchet, part 2 | Gustave Flaubert
  • There was a curious noise, like a jews-harp, in the chamber.

    Urania | Camille Flammarion

British Dictionary definitions for jew's-harp


  1. a musical instrument consisting of a small lyre-shaped metal frame held between the teeth, with a steel tongue plucked with the finger. Changes in pitch are produced by varying the size of the mouth cavities

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