American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A keyboard instrument whose strings are plucked by means of quills or plectrums.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A stringed musical instrument in use in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, which in its form and in the arrangement of the keyboard and strings resembled a piano, but in which the tone was produced by the plucking or snapping of the strings by leather or quill points, which were set in jacks connected by levers with the keys. In form it usually resembled a modern grand pianoforte, though both square and upright varieties were also made. The length of the keyboard was from four to six and a half octaves. The number of separate strings to a key varied from one to four, sometimes including one tuned an octave above the others; the latter variety was called a double harpsichord. The tone was weak and tinkling, and gradation of force was impossible. Two key boards were sometimes combined, one for soft effects, the other for loud. Numerous devices, usually connected with the jacks, were introduced at different times to secure variety in force, and especially in quality. These mechanisms, which often aimed to simulate the tone-qualities of various orchestral instruments, were usually controlled by stop-knobs near the keyboard. The harpsichord, though essentially different from the pianoforte, was its immediate predecessor. Before 1800 it was regularly used in all dramatic music, especially in accompanying recitatives, and in orchestral music. The conductor usually directed from his seat at a harpsichord placed amid the other instruments.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Mus.) A harp-shaped instrument of music set horizontally on legs, like the grand piano, with strings of wire, played by the fingers, by means of keys provided with quills, instead of hammers, for striking the strings. It is now superseded by the piano.
- n. a clavier with strings that are plucked by plectra mounted on pivots
- Latin harpicordium, from harpa ("harp") + corda ("string"). (Wiktionary)
- Alteration of obsolete French harpechorde, from Italian arpicordo : arpa, harp (from Late Latin harpa, of Germanic origin) + corda, string (from Latin chorda, from Greek khordē). (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“The harpsichord was a wedding gift from a grateful employer, I suppose?”
“Over the harpsichord was a portrait of the Colonel himself, painted before she was born.”
“But the mind was as clearly the result of the bodily organization as the music of the harpsichord is the result of the instrumental mechanism.”
“The man who was born within an echo of the harpsichord was the most important inspiration and influence on the creation and development of the modern piano.”
““I am very fond of books and music; my harpsichord was my delight.””
“Thus our heroine, though possessed of more philosophy than usually falls to the share of a young beauty, could not sometimes prevent the intrusion of uneasy reflections: upon these occasions her harpsichord was her general resource, and a lesson from some favourite composer would, at any time, reharmonize her mind.”
“I am very fond of books and music; my harpsichord was my delight.”
“As for the rest of the album, let me just point out that it's sad when a harpsichord is the only good thing about a song, as is the case in "Aleph.”
“The 1579 Lodewyk Theewes on display at the Victorian and Albert museum appears on first glance to be a typical kind of harpsichord-claviorgan with two keyboards and a box-shaped organ case (as opposed to harpsichord-shaped).”
“The '' 'harpsichord' '' represents the highest development of the plucked string family of keyboard instruments.”
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