American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A stringed instrument of the harp family having two curved arms connected at the upper end by a crossbar, used to accompany a singer or reciter of poetry, especially in ancient Greece.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. In music
- n. A stringed instrument of Egyptian origin, which became the national instrument of ancient Greece. It belonged essentially to the harp family. It resembled closely the cithara, which was derived from Asia, and, like it, consisted of a hollow body, sometimes made of a tortoise-shell, from which two branching horns projected upward, carrying a cross-piece or yoke; the strings, whose number varied from three to ten or more, but was most characteristically seven, were stretched between the yoke and the body, a bridge being provided on the latter for their attachment. The instrument, held by the left arm, sometimes resting on the knee, was played with a plectrum in the right hand, and also by the fingers of the left hand. The tuning of the strings was probably various, though doubtless tetrachordal from very early times. The strings of an eight-stringed lyre were named hypate, the ‘highest’ string (probably as the lyre was usually held), which was the longest and gave the lowest sound; parhypate, the next string to hypate; lichanos, the forefinger-string; mese, the middle string; paramese, the next string to mese; trite, the third string (from the bottom); paranete, the next string to nete; and nete, the ‘last’ or ‘lowest’ string, which was the shortest and gave the highest sound. From these terms came most of the names of tones in the various Greek tonal systems. (See
tetrachord.) The lyre was the instrument most used by the Greeks for accompanying singing and recitation; hence the terms lyric and lyrical. It is doubtful whether it was used unaccompanied by the voice.
- n. An element in the name of some instruments of the viol class, as the arm-lyre or lira da braccio, and the knee-lyre or lira da gamba. See lira.
- n. A kind of metallic harmonica, mounted on a lyre-shaped frame, occasionally used in military music.
- n. A kind of rebec used by the modern Greeks. See rebec.
- n. [capitalized] A constellation. See Lyra, 1.
- n. A verse of the kind commonly used in lyric poetry.
- n. The Manx shearwater, Puffinus anglorum.
- n. A grade of isinglass: a trade-name.
- n. An obsolete form of leer.
- n. See lire.
- In pianoforte-making, the lyre-shaped frame to which the pedals are attached and through which the pedal-rods work.
- The posterior portion of the under surface of the fornix of the brain, marked by a number of lines bearing a fancied resemblance to a lyre. Also called lyre of David or lyra Davidis.
- n. A stringed musical instrument.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Mus.) A stringed instrument of music; a kind of harp much used by the ancients, as an accompaniment to poetry.
- n. (Astron.) One of the constellations; Lyra. See Lyra.
- n. a harp used by ancient Greeks for accompaniment
- From Ancient Greek λύρα (lyra, "lyre, a stringed instrument with a sounding-board formed of the shell of a tortoise") (Wiktionary)
- Middle English lire, from Old French, from Latin lyra, from Greek lura. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“Contradictories as _No centaurs play the lyre -- Some centaurs do play the lyre_; or _All unicorns fight with lions -- Some unicorns do not fight with lions_, are both meaningless, because in Zoology there are no centaurs nor unicorns; and, therefore, in this reference, the propositions are not really contradictory.”
“Thus the poet Melchior would never have consented to abandon what he called his lyre, to write a commercial prospectus or an electoral address.”
“Kinnor is more of a zither than a harp; therefore we render the word lyre, because only as lyres developed did harps result.”
“When 'Omer smote' is bloomin 'lyre, He'd' eard men sing by land an 'sea; An' what he thought he might require, 'e went and took, the same as me.”
“Each of these "Apollonian" instruments was historically referred to as a lyre and demanded attentive tuning: in the cabinet below the harp we find its tuning mechanism, whose tau-like shape evokes the spiritual temperament of the Franciscan Order. 309”
“In the lower left, below the sack, was a type of harp called a lyre.”
“He was weak; it was his only fault, weak as the string of a lyre, which is so strong when it is taut.”
“His lyre was a fine old one of polished tortoiseshell, with arms of slender horn and a bridge of ivory.”
“[364-20] A poet or musician is said to sing, and the lyre is the instrument with which the ancients accompanied their songs.”
“Although I can boast nothing but an extreme and unquenchable love for the art to which my humble aspirations are confined, my lyre has been a solace when every thing else has failed; soothing when agitated, and when at peace furnishing that exercise and excitement without which the mind becomes sick, and all her faculties retrograde when they ought to be advancing.”
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Key words from "The Training of a Public Speaker" by Grenville Kleiser (New York and London, 1920)
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