Origin of shawm

1300–50; Middle English schalme < Middle French chaume < Latin calamus stalk, reed < Greek kálamos reed; replacing Middle English schallemele < Middle French chalemel (see chalumeau) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for shawm

Historical Examples of shawm

  • The shawm rang out yearningly beneath the pale expanse of an unsympathetic heaven.

    The Road to the Open

    Arthur Schnitzler

  • The shawm was silent, the herdsman bent questioningly over the wall and Kurwenal made answer.

    The Road to the Open

    Arthur Schnitzler

  • Cornemuse is a bagpipe; shalmye is a shawm, which was a wind-instrument, being derived from Lat.

  • A figure is given (Galpin, p. 159) of a goat playing on a shawm from a carving of the twelfth century at Canterbury.

  • The name is believed to be derived from calamaula, a reed-pipe, which was corrupted to chalem-elle and then to shawm.

British Dictionary definitions for shawm


  1. music a medieval form of the oboe with a conical bore and flaring bell, blown through a double reed

Word Origin for shawm

C14 shalmye, from Old French chalemie, ultimately from Latin calamus a reed, from Greek kalamos
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 shawm

"medieval oboe-like instrument," mid-14c., schalmeis (plural), also schallemele (late 14c.), from Old French chalemie, chalemel, from Late Latin calamellus, literally "a small reed," diminutive of Latin calamus "reed," from Greek kalamos, from PIE *kole-mo- "grass, reed" (cf. Old English healm "straw," Latin culmus "stalk"). Mistaken as a plural and trimmed of its "-s" ending from mid-15c. Related: Shawmist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper