American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A keyed brass instrument of the bugle family with a baritone range that was the structural precursor of the bass saxophone and was replaced by the tuba in orchestras.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A metal musical wind-instrument, invented about 1790, having a large tube of conical bore, bent double, with a cupped mouthpiece. It is essentially a development of the old wooden serpent, and has sometimes been made partly of wood; it is the bass representative of the keyed-bugle family. The tones produced are the harmonics of the tube, as in the horn; but the fundamental tone may be altered by means of keys which control vents in the side of the tube. Eleven such keys are employed, so that the entire compass is over three octaves, beginning (in the usual bass variety) on the third B below the middle C, with all the semitones — all obtainable with exceptional accuracy of intonation. Its resources are therefore considerable, and as its tone is highly resonant and pungent it is an important orchestral instrument. The alto ophicleide is pitched a fifth higher than that described above, while lower varieties also occur.
- n. In organ-building, a powerful reed stop with a trumpet-like tone.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Mus.) A large brass wind instrument, formerly used in the orchestra and in military bands, having a loud tone, deep pitch, and a compass of three octaves; -- now generally supplanted by bass and contrabass tubas. It developed from the older wooden instrument called the
- French : Greek ophis, snake (from its resemblance to the serpent, a musical instrument) + Greek klēis, klēid-, key. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“The Washington Cathedral has an ophicleide stop; the Central Synagogue in New York has one labeled "shofar.”
“The wooden serpent has gone out of use in military bands within recollection, the ophicleide from orchestras only recently.”
“A Parisian instrument maker, Halary, in 1817, made this a complete instrument, after the manner of the keyed bugle of Halliday, and producing it in brass called it the ophicleide, from two Greek words meaning serpent and keys -- keyed serpent -- although it was more like a keyed bass bugle.”
“Like an ophicleide," said Gerfaut, who could not help laughing at the importance the artist attached to his display of talent.”
“The application of keys to the bugle produced the Kent bugle, and later the ophicleide.”
“In the ophicleide, the bass of the key-bugle, the bore is sufficiently wide to produce the fundamentals of a satisfactory quality.”
“The bugle with its double development by means of keys into Royal Kent bugle and ophicleide, and by means of valves into saxhorns and tubas, formed the nucleus of brass bands of all countries during the greater part of the 19th century.”
“Singular as was this feat, it was far less so than a young man's performance of the ophicleide, a serpentine instrument that coiled round and about its player, and when breathed into persuasively gave forth prodigious brassy sounds that resembled the night-noises of beasts of prey.”
“Is that the ophicleide as thy father used to play at th 'owd church?”
“This item roused the Indian god from his umbilical contemplations, and as the young ophicleide player, somewhat breathless, passed down the room with his brazen creature in his arms, Mr Enoch”
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