[ awr-kuh-struh ]
/ ˈɔr kə strə /


a group of performers on various musical instruments, including especially stringed instruments of the viol class, clarinets and flutes, cornets and trombones, drums, and cymbals, for playing music, as symphonies, operas, popular music, or other compositions.
(in a modern theater)
  1. the space reserved for the musicians, usually the front part of the main floor (orchestra pit ).
  2. the entire main-floor space for spectators.
  3. the parquet.
(in the ancient Greek theater) the circular space in front of the stage, allotted to the chorus.
(in the Roman theater) a similar space reserved for persons of distinction.



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Origin of orchestra

1590–1600; <Latin orchēstra<Greek orchḗstra the space on which the chorus danced, derivative of orcheîsthai to dance
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for orchestra

British Dictionary definitions for orchestra

/ (ˈɔːkɪstrə) /


a large group of musicians, esp one whose members play a variety of different instrumentsSee also symphony orchestra, string orchestra, chamber orchestra
a group of musicians, each playing the same type of instrumenta balalaika orchestra
Also called: orchestra pit the space reserved for musicians in a theatre, immediately in front of or under the stage
mainly US and Canadian the stalls in a theatre
(in the ancient Greek theatre) the semicircular space in front of the stage

Derived forms of orchestra

orchestral (ɔːˈkɛstrəl), adjectiveorchestrally, adverb

Word Origin for orchestra

C17: via Latin from Greek: the space in the theatre reserved for the chorus, from orkheisthai to dance
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

Cultural definitions for orchestra


A group of musicians who play together on a variety of instruments, which usually come from all four instrument families — brass, percussion, strings, and woodwinds. A typical symphony orchestra is made up of more than ninety musicians. Most orchestras, unlike chamber music groups, have more than one musician playing each musical part.

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.