[vahy-uh l]


a bowed musical instrument, differing from the violin in having deeper ribs, sloping shoulders, a greater number of strings, usually six, and frets: common in the 16th and 17th centuries in various sizes from the treble viol to the bass viol.

Origin of viol

1475–85; < Middle French viole (akin to Old French viel(l)e > earlier English viele) < Old Provençal viola, derivative of violar to play the viola1 (perhaps imitative)
Can be confusedvial vile viol Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for viol

Historical Examples of viol

  • He scorned the new invention but warmly upheld the lute and viol.

    How the Piano Came to Be

    Ellye Howell Glover

  • Significant then, that he worshipped "the viol, the violet, and the vine" of Poe.

    Adventures in the Arts

    Marsden Hartley

  • In Greece and Albania, however, the viol would seem not to be used.

    The Science of Fairy Tales

    Edwin Sidney Hartland

  • The artist is seen in the foreground playing a viol: Titian a bass viol.

  • He says, "There is no hint where the Viol kind came first in use."

    The Violin

    George Hart

British Dictionary definitions for viol



any of a family of stringed musical instruments that preceded the violin family, consisting of a fretted fingerboard, a body rather like that of a violin but having a flat back and six strings, played with a curved bow. They are held between the knees when played and have a quiet yet penetrating tone; they were much played, esp in consorts, in the 16th and 17th centuries

Word Origin for viol

C15: from Old French viole, from Old Provençal viola; see viola 1
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 viol

musical instrument, late 15c., viel, from Middle French viole, from Old French, from Old Provençal viola (see viola).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper