a small upright piano.
a small, square piano.
any of various small harpsichords.
Also called spinet organ. a small electric organ.

Origin of spinet

1655–65; aphetic variant of obsolete espinette < French < Italian spinetta, probably equivalent to spin(a) thorn (see spine) + -etta diminutive suffix; the existence of an instrument-maker named Spinetti is unverified
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for spinet

Contemporary Examples of spinet

Historical Examples of spinet

  • There are two theories as to the origin of the name "spinet."

    How the Piano Came to Be

    Ellye Howell Glover

  • There are interesting old books on the virginals, harpsichord, and spinet.

  • She had been taking lessons on the spinet, but the painting was a great rival.

    A Little Girl in Old Salem

    Amanda Minnie Douglas

  • Her laugh was sweet and tinkly, like the upper notes of a spinet.

    IT and Other Stories

    Gouverneur Morris

  • Now I know it is a spinet I heard humming—I told you about it, mother.

    True to His Home

    Hezekiah Butterworth

British Dictionary definitions for spinet



a small type of harpsichord having one manual

Word Origin for spinet

C17: from Italian spinetta, perhaps from Giovanni Spinetti, 16th-century Italian maker of musical instruments and its supposed inventor
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 spinet

1660s, spinette, "small harpsichord," from older French espinette (1520s), from Italian spinetta, said by Scaliger to be a diminutive of spina "thorn, spine," from Latin spina "thorn" (see spine), so called because the strings were plucked with thorn-like quills. The other theory (favored by OED) dates to early 17c. and claims the word is from the name of the Venetian inventor, Giovanni Spinetti (fl. c.1503).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper