Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The drone pipe of a bagpipe.
  • n. The bass string, as of a violin.
  • n. An organ stop, commonly of the 16-foot pipes, medium in scale but with dark timbre.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The burden or bass of a melody.
  • n. The drone pipe of a bagpipe.
  • n. The lowest-pitched stop of an organ.
  • n. The lowest-pitched bell of a carillon.
  • n. A large, low-pitched bell not part of a diatonically tuned ring of bells.
  • n. A bumblebee.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A pilgrim's staff.
  • n. A drone bass, as in a bagpipe, or a hurdy-gurdy. See burden (of a song.)
  • n. A kind of organ stop.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In music, to drone, as an instrument during a pause in singing.
  • n. A staff used by pilgrims in the middle ages.
  • n. A baton or cantoral staff.
  • n. A plain thick silver wand used as a badge of office.
  • n. A lance used in the just. See lance.
  • n. In heraldry, a pilgrim's staff used as a bearing.
  • n. In music: The drone of a bagpipe, or a monotonous and repetitious ground-melody. See burden.
  • n. An organ-stop, usually of 16-feet tone, the pipes of which are generally made of wood, and produce hollow, smooth tones, deficient in harmonics and easily blended with other tones.
  • n. In the hurdy-gurdy, the lowest open string, usually tuned to the C below middle C or to the G below that.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a pipe of the bagpipe that is tuned to produce a single continuous tone

Etymologies

Middle English burdoun, bass, from Old French bourdon.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French bourdon. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • "In regard to the word bourdon, why it has been applied to a pilgrim's staff, it is not easy to guess.

    Divine Comedy, Cary's Translation, Complete

  • Pierre IV, who associated himself with Pierre de Clerck (a cousin german), made the great "bourdon" called Salvator.

    Vanished towers and chimes of Flanders

  • Before us was the "bourdon," so called, weighing 2,200 pounds, the bronze monster upon which the bass note was sounded, and which sounded the hour over the level fields of Flanders.

    Vanished towers and chimes of Flanders

  • The designation ‘faux bourdon’, or one of its variants, was usually placed in either the discantus or the tenor part – more often the latter, especially in the earlier years, perhaps because the tenor directed the ensemble; it might also appear in both parts, or elsewhere on the page.

    Archive 2008-02-01

  • ‘Faux bourdon’, though not in itself a mandatory canonic instruction, is therefore a kind of trademark that tells the performers that they may increase the sonority of the music by adding one or two canonically derived parts.

    Archive 2008-02-01

  • The words ‘faux bourdon’ were often preceded by the preposition ‘à’ or ‘per’, sometimes ‘au’ even ‘aux’ or ‘in’; the expression might also be shortened to ‘per faulx’ or ‘per bardunum’.

    Archive 2008-02-01

  • Ax 'et malou vont bientot mourir et ca me fout le bourdon alors voila quoi ...

    pinku-tk Diary Entry

  • The Firvulag throng was now almost out of control, straining close to the platform on their side of the field and making an uproar of derisive twitters, growls, and a deep bourdon drone of humming that now reached a crescendo of maddening whole-tone intervals.

    The Golden Torc

  • It contains some of the finest 16th-century masterpieces, ranging from the "_faux-bourdon_" style of Tallis's _Pieces and Responses_ to the most developed types of full anthem.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 3, Part 1, Slice 3 "Banks" to "Bassoon"

  • The cornemuse or chalemie used by shepherds, and as a solo instrument (see fig. 1 (1)), was similar to the Highland bag-pipe; it consisted of a leather bag, inflated by means of a valved blow-pipe; a large drone (_gros bourdon_) 2½ ft. long included the beating-reed, which measured 2½ in., and was fixed in the stock; the small drone (_petit bourdon_), 1 ft. in length including a reed

    Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 3, Part 1, Slice 2 "Baconthorpe" to "Bankruptcy"

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  • While tossing in my sleepless mill
    Alarms were sudden and shrill.
    The sleeping cat purred on,
    A comforting bourdon,
    The sole point steady and still.

    February 25, 2014

  • "Didn't I tell you?" Monsieur Trouvé was grinning like a little boy. He had a good pair of lungs in that wide chest of his, so he continued to yell after them. "I replaced our original model with one of Eugène's bourdon tubes, activated by gunpowder charges. I did say I had taken a keen interest recently."
    Blameless by Gail Carriger, p 131

    November 22, 2010

  • The faint hum of the insect, the intermittent murmur of the guitar, the mellow complainings of the pigeons, the prolonged purr of the white cat, the contented clucking of the hens--all these noises mingled together to form a faint, drowsy bourdon, prolonged, stupefying, suggestive of an infinite quiet, of a calm, complacent life, centuries old, lapsing gradually to its end under the gorgeous loneliness of a cloudless, pale blue sky and the steady fire of an interminable sun.

    - Frank Norris, The Octopus, ch. 5

    August 15, 2008