• synonyms


  1. Often virginals. a rectangular harpsichord with the strings stretched parallel to the keyboard, the earlier types placed on a table: popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.
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Origin of virginal

First recorded in 1520–30; apparently special use of virginal1
Related formsvir·gin·al·ist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for virginals

Historical Examples of virginals

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

    The Book-Hunter at Home

    P. B. M. Allan

  • After dinner, in her privy-chamber, he gave her a fair pair of virginals.

  • I could as soon have looked to see Moses play the virginals.

    Joyce Morrell's Harvest

    Emily Sarah Holt

  • Sometimes she hunted, your Majesty, and sometimes she played upon the virginals.

    A Ladder of Swords

    Gilbert Parker

  • Bull is most favourably known as a composer for the Virginals.

    Twelve Good Musicians

    Frederick Bridge

British Dictionary definitions for virginals


  1. of, relating to, characterized by, proper to, or maintaining a state of virginity; chaste
  2. extremely pure or fresh; untouched; undefiled
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Derived Formsvirginally, adverb

Word Origin for virginal

C15: from Latin virginālis maidenly, from virgō virgin


  1. (often plural) a smaller version of the harpsichord, but oblong in shape, having one manual and no pedals
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Derived Formsvirginalist, noun

Word Origin for virginal

C16: probably from Latin virginālis virginal 1, perhaps because it was played largely by young ladies
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 virginals


"small harpsichord," 1520s, evidently from virgin, but the connection is unclear, unless it means "an instrument played by girls."

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early 15c., from Old French virginal or directly from Latin virginalis, from virgin (see virgin). The keyed musical instrument so called from 1520s, but the reason is obscure (see virginals).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper