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

  • n. Printing A padding, as of paper or cloth, placed over the platen of a press to regulate the pressure on the sheet being printed.
  • n. Architecture A tympanum.
  • n. A tightly stretched sheet or membrane, as on the head of a drum.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a piece of cloth padding placed under the platen of a letterpress to distribute the pressure on the sheet being printed
  • n. the stretched membrane of a drum; a percussion instrument consisting of a hollow cylinder with such a membrane at each end
  • n. a tympanum

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A drum.
  • n. A panel; a tympanum.
  • n. A frame covered with parchment or cloth, on which the blank sheets are put, in order to be laid on the form to be impressed.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A timbrel or drum.
  • n. An ancient Irish musical instrument, the exact nature of which is disputed. Probably it had strings, and was played with a bow, thus resembling the crowd.
  • n. A stretched membrane, or a tense sheet of some thin material, as that of a drumhead.
  • n. In a printing-press having a platen, a framed appliance interposed between the platen and the sheet to be printed, for softening and equalizing the pressure, by means of blankets between its two parts; the outer and the inner tympan.
  • n. In anatomy, a tympanum.
  • n. In architecture, a tympanum.

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

  • n. a musical percussion instrument; usually consists of a hollow cylinder with a membrane stretched across each end


Middle English timpan, drum, from Old English timpana, from Latin tympanum, from Greek tumpanon.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Medieval Latin tympanum. (Wiktionary)



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  • In printing, a skin-covered wooden frame that served as a guide for positioning a sheet of paper on the press.

    February 2, 2007