Definitions

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

  • n. A 17th-century lute having two sets of strings and an S-shaped neck with two sets of pegs, one set above and somewhat to the side of the other.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A baroque lute having an extra set of open bass strings.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An instrument made like large lute, but having two necks, with two sets of pegs, the lower set holding the strings governed by frets, while to the upper set were attached the long bass strings used as open notes.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A musical instrument of the lute class, having two necks, the one above the other, the lower bearing the melody strings, which were stretched over a fretted finger-board, and the upper bearing the accompaniment strings or “diapasons,” which were deeper in pitch, and were played without being stopped.

Etymologies

French théorbe, from Italian tiorba.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian tiorba, from Turkish torba. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • (Soundbite of song, "Nuove Musiche") WHARTON: That's Rolf Lislevand playing the ancient lute called a theorbo on "Nuove Musiche," one of producer Manfred Eicher's CDs from the past year.

    Grammy's Hidden Surprises

  • Sting accompanies himself on an archlute, also called a theorbo, and is joined on some numbers by lutenist Edin Karamazov.

    DesignerBlog

  • The theorbo is the instrument with the coolest name, but he also plays the lute, among other things.

    Archive 2005-06-01

  • It was a kind of theorbo or bass-lute, but with one neck only, bent back at right angles to form the head.

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

  • You suspect that the main reason Albarn creates a sound-world combining kora, theorbo, and Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen is because he can.

    Dr Dee, Palace Theatre, Manchester | First night review

  • As Fabulas loudly sung battle songs and played his theorbo, the heroes followed Dwizel who relentlessly attacked every orc in sight while trying to find his way around their camp.

    weekly

  • Pandolfo and Thomas Boysen, on theorbo or archlute and baroque guitar, approached each piece with improvisatorial freedom.

    PERFORMING ARTS

  • Although both musicians played with virtuosic speed and accuracy, Marais's "Plainte" was the highlight of this one-hour recital, a whispering thread of melody from the viol accompanied by gentle arpeggiated chords on the theorbo, making the lament an intense, personal cry of anguish.

    PERFORMING ARTS

  • Among the instruments—played by a whopping 50 orchestra members—are multiple variations of the viola, nine basses de violon (which preceded the cello) and a theorbo (a large lute).

    Historic Opera Fit for Kings County

  • With Patrick Summers on the podium, the San Francisco Opera's company premiere of Xerxes included several instruments rarely heard in operatic ensembles: the arch lute, baroque guitar, and theorbo a long-necked lute sometimes referred to as a chitarrone.

    George Heymont: Going For Baroque With Handel's Xerxes

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Comments

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  • "The theorbo isn't a zither,
    It's just a big freaking lute
    Build a case for one of these bounders
    And you've constructed a coffin, to boot."
    --hernesheir, ca. 2006

    January 14, 2009

  • Good grief! It's huge!

    The theorbo, that is.

    March 20, 2008

  • Image? Did you say image?

    March 20, 2008

  • Wow, what a great image. Thanks for the update, sarra--that'll teach me to go by dictionary descriptions. :-)

    March 20, 2008

  • More than historically; they're still played. I've watched one be carried slung across the player's body ready to be played, up the side aisle of a church, willing its gigantic neck not to collide with anything on the way. So crane-like!

    March 20, 2008

  • Historically, a bass lute with two sets of strings attached to separate peg boxes (one above the other) on the neck.

    March 20, 2008