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

  • n. A stringed instrument having a body shaped like a pear sliced lengthwise and a neck with a fretted fingerboard that is usually bent just below the tuning pegs.
  • n. A substance, such as dried clay or cement, used to pack and seal pipe joints and other connections or coat a porous surface in order to make it tight. Also called luting.
  • transitive v. To coat, pack, or seal with lute.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A fretted stringed instrument, similar to a guitar, having a bowl-shaped body or soundbox.
  • v. To play on a lute, or as if on a lute.
  • n. Thick sticky clay or cement used to close up a hole or gap, especially to make something air-tight.
  • v. To fix or fasten something with lute.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A cement of clay or other tenacious infusible substance for sealing joints in apparatus, or the mouths of vessels or tubes, or for coating the bodies of retorts, etc., when exposed to heat; -- called also luting.
  • n. A packing ring, as of rubber, for fruit jars, etc.
  • n. A straight-edged piece of wood for striking off superfluous clay from mold.
  • n. A stringed instrument formerly much in use. It consists of four parts, namely, the table or front, the body, having nine or ten ribs or “sides,” arranged like the divisions of a melon, the neck, which has nine or ten frets or divisions, and the head, or cross, in which the screws for tuning are inserted. The strings are struck with the right hand, and with the left the stops are pressed.
  • intransitive v. To sound, as a lute.
  • transitive v. To close or seal with lute
  • transitive v. To play on a lute, or as on a lute.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To play on or as on a lute.
  • To play the lute.
  • To sound sweetly, like a lute.
  • To close or coat with lute; smear with any adhesive substance for the purpose of closing cracks or joints.
  • A Middle English form of lite .
  • A Middle English form of lout .
  • n. A medieval musical instrument, the type of the class which has strings stretched over a resonant body and a long fretted neck, and which is played by twanging or snapping the strings with the fingers.
  • n. A composition of clay or other tenacious substance used for stopping the joints of vessels, as in chemical operations or in founding, so closely as to prevent the escape or entrance of air.
  • n. An external coating of clay, sand, or other substance applied to a glass retort, to enable it to support a high temperature without fusing or cracking.
  • n. A brickmakers’ straight-edge, a tool used to strike off surplus clay from a brick-mold, and to level the molding-floor.
  • n. A rubber packing-ring compressed between the lip and the lid of a jar to exclude the air.

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

  • n. a substance for packing a joint or coating a porous surface to make it impervious to gas or liquid
  • n. chordophone consisting of a plucked instrument having a pear-shaped body, a usually bent neck, and a fretted fingerboard


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

Middle English, from Old French lut, from Old Provençal laut, from Arabic al-'ūd : al-, the + 'ūd, wood, branch, stem, lute.
Middle English, from Old French lut, from Latin lutum, potter's clay.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle French lut (modern luth), from Old French leüt, probably from Old Provençal laüt, from Arabic العود (al-‘ūd, "wood") (probably representing an Andalusian Arabic or North African pronunciation).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French lut, ultimately from Latin lutum ("mud").


  • They must not suppose me cheerless – my lute is here – ‘tis a fair deceit on them – this lute which has so oft been damped with the tears from my sightless eyes – the sound of it is the only indication I can give that I am contented with my lot!

    Act II

  • The folk rejoiced in her song with exceeding joy and my gladness redoubled, so that I took the lute from the damsel and preluding after the most melodious fashion, sang these couplets,

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • The ch'in, or table-lute, is fully described in Note 114.

    Fir-Flower Tablets: Poems Translated From the Chinese

  • The "Shu table-lute" is an allusion to Ssŭ Ma Hsiang-ju, a great poet and musician, who was a native of Shu.

    Fir-Flower Tablets: Poems Translated From the Chinese

  • At such a time the calm spring melody of the lute is exquisite.

    Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan

  • In these arrangements, and in planning their future movements relative to the rescue of Lady Helen, they passed several hours, and were only interrupted by the arrival of a lute from the queen for her minstrel to tune.

    The Scottish Chiefs

  • Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

    ame soeur - French Word-A-Day

  • The oud adapted in the West is called a lute and differs slightly from the oud.

    Amid war's chaos, the fine art of oud making continues

  • Qianlong's writing desk and his lute were the items that particularly attracted my attention.


  • The lute was her favorite instrument, and its tender notes accorded well with the sweet and melting tones of her voice.

    A Sicilian Romance


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Ah. Thanks!

    Signed, Too Lazy to Look It Up

    November 5, 2008

  • If you go back far enough, lute comes via Old French from the Arabic al-ud, and in fact there is a middle-eastern, lute-like instrument that's commonly spelled oud in Western countries, which is the same thing.

    Whereas prelude gets back to præ (pre) + ludus (play), i.e. to play before. Præludium and præludere are the Latin words.

    November 4, 2008

  • Fascinating! Frindley, do you know whether the word "prelude" has any connection to the word "lute" because of this practice? Or is that just coincidence?

    November 4, 2008

  • So true, so true. Love this quote.

    A 8-course double-strung lute will have 15 strings (yeah, I know, the sums are off); archlutes, theorbos etc. will have more (over 20). And the gut strings don't hold their pitch so well and succumb to all sorts of variations in ambient temperature. So yes, a lutenist spends most of his or her time tuning.

    This is how preluding was invented. A lutenist would prelude by improvising in the key of the proper piece they were about to play. The free-form improvisations were meant to disguise the fact that they were actually checking their tuning. Then everyone started doing it because preluding is just plain fun.

    November 4, 2008

  • "'If a lutenist lives to be eighty years old,' quipped Johann Mattheson, a German music critic, in 1713, 'surely he has spent sixty years tuning.'"

    —Glenn Kurtz, Practicing: A Musician's Return to Music (New York: Vintage Books, 2007), 116

    November 4, 2008