• synonyms


  1. a drum consisting of a hollow hemisphere of brass, copper, or fiberglass over which is stretched a skin, the tension of which can be modified by hand screws or foot pedals to vary the pitch.
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Compare timpani.

Origin of kettledrum

First recorded in 1595–1605; kettle + drum1
Related formsket·tle·drum·mer, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for kettledrummer

Historical Examples

  • Among his retinue in time of war were a trumpeter and kettledrummer.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 15, Slice 7


  • The kettledrummer of that day had a peculiar habit of breaking in before the rest of the orchestra.

    Musical Memories

    Camille Saint-Sans

  • Said the slave-girl: “The large kettledrum sounds so sad to-day; some misfortune must surely have happened to the kettledrummer!”

British Dictionary definitions for kettledrummer


  1. a percussion instrument of definite pitch, consisting of a hollow bowl-like hemisphere covered with a skin or membrane, supported on a tripod or stand. The pitch may be adjusted by means of screws or pedals, which alter the tension of the skin
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Derived Formskettledrummer, noun
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 kettledrummer



1540s, from kettle + drum (n.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

kettledrummer in Culture


A drum consisting of a skin stretched over a large shell in the shape of a half-sphere. The pitch of the kettledrum can be changed by manipulating screws at the edge of the skin or pedals at the bottom of the drum. Kettledrums are usually used in classical music in sets of two or more and are known by their Italian name, timpani.

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