from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Zoology A membranous external auditory structure, as in certain insects.
  • noun The ornamental recessed space or panel enclosed by the cornices of a triangular pediment.
  • noun A similar space between an arch and the lintel of a portal or window.
  • noun The diaphragm of a telephone.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An ancient tambourine or hand-drum, either with a single head like the modern tambourine, or with both front and back covered (the back sometimes swelled out as in a kettledrum), and beaten either with the hand or with a stick.
  • noun In anatomy and zoology: The ear-drum considered as to its walls, its cavity, and its contents.
  • noun The tympanic membrane; the ear-drum, in the restricted sense of that term: so used in physiology and aural surgery, and in common speech: as, a rupture of the tympanum. See tympanic membrane, under tympanic.
  • noun In ornithology: The labyrinth at the bottom of the windpipe of sundry birds, as the mergansers and various sea-ducks: a large irregular bony or gristly dilatation of the lower part of the trachea, often involving also more or less of the upper ends of the bronchi. It is chiefly found, or most developed, in the male sex.
  • noun The naked inflatable air-sac on each side of the neck of certain birds, as grouse, especially the sage-grouse and prairie-hen, in which the ordinary cervical air-cells of birds are inordinately developed and susceptible of great distention. See cut under Cupidonia.
  • noun In entomology, a tympanic membrane, stretched upon a chitinized ring, one surface being directed to the exterior, the other to the interior, in relation with a tracheal vesicle and with nervous ganglia and nervous end-organs in the form of clavate rods, as in the Orthoptera, where such an arrangement constitutes an auditory organ.
  • noun In architecture: The triangular space forming the field or back of a pediment, and included between the cornices of the inclined sides and the horizontal cornice; also, any space similarly marked off or bounded, as above a window, or between the lintel of a door and an arch above it. The tympanum often constitutes a field for sculpture in relief or in the round. See also cuts under pediment and pedimented.
  • noun The die or drum of a pedestal. See cuts under dado and pedestal.
  • noun The panel of a door.
  • noun In hydraul, engin., a water-raising current-wheel, originally made in the form of a drum, whence the name.
  • noun A kind of hollow tread-wheel wherein two or more persons walk in order to turn it, and thus give motion to a machine.
  • noun In botany, a membranous substance stretched across the theca. of a moss.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The ear drum, or middle ear. Sometimes applied incorrectly to the tympanic membrane. See ear.
  • noun A chamber in the anterior part of the syrinx of birds.
  • noun (Zoöl.) One of the naked, inflatable air sacs on the neck of the prairie chicken and other species of grouse.
  • noun The recessed face of a pediment within the frame made by the upper and lower cornices, being usually a triangular space or table.
  • noun The space within an arch, and above a lintel or a subordinate arch, spanning the opening below the arch.
  • noun (Mech.) A drum-shaped wheel with spirally curved partitions by which water is raised to the axis when the wheel revolves with the lower part of the circumference submerged, -- used for raising water, as for irrigation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun architecture A triangular space between the sides of a pediment.
  • noun architecture The space within an arch, and above a lintel or a subordinate arch, spanning the opening below the arch.
  • noun The middle ear.
  • noun The eardrum.
  • noun A hearing organ in frogs, toads and some insects.
  • noun engineering A drum-shaped wheel with spirally curved partitions by which water is raised to the axis when the wheel revolves with the lower part of the circumference submerged; used for raising water, as for irrigation.

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

  • noun the membrane in the ear that vibrates to sound
  • noun the main cavity of the ear; between the eardrum and the inner ear
  • noun a large hemispherical brass or copper percussion instrument with a drumhead that can be tuned by adjusting the tension on it


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

[Medieval Latin, from Latin, drum, from Greek tumpanon.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin tympanum, from Ancient Greek τύμπανον (tumpanon), from τύπτω (tuptō, "I strike, I hit").


  • The border of the tympanum is very charming; the children quite beautifully painted.

    Art and Handicraft in the Woman's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893

  • Fourthly, there are two nerves within the ears, so attached to three small bones that are mutually sustaining, and the first of which rests on the small membrane that covers the cavity we call the tympanum of the ear, that all the diverse vibrations which the surrounding air communicates to this membrane are transmitted to the mind by these nerves, and these vibrations give rise, according to their diversity, to the sensations of the different sounds.

    The Selections from the Principles of Philosophy

  • On the other side of the tympanum is a small air-filled space called the tympanic cavity.

    The Human Brain

  • The height of the tympanum, which is in the pediment, is to be obtained thus: let the front of the corona, from the two ends of its cymatium, be measured off into nine parts, and let one of these parts be set up in the middle at the peak of the tympanum, taking care that it is perpendicular to the entablature and the neckings of the columns.

    The Ten Books on Architecture

  • In the tympanum is a figure of the Saviour in an aureole (or 'glory' of a pointed oval shape), held up by two angels sitting, holding an open book surmounted by a cross in His left hand,

    Ely Cathedral

  • On the tympanum is a fresco representing the presentation of the kings to the child Jesus.

    The South of France—East Half

  • In the center of the horizontal bar of the tympanum is the figure of an emperor, between two angels, variously supposed to represent Charlemagne, Charles the Bald, or an emperor of the seventeenth century.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 3: Brownson-Clairvaux

  • Soufflot and his clerical employers of the eighteenth century (p. 252): all that remains of the original carvings in the tympanum is a portion of the figure of Christ and the angels.

    The Story of Paris

  • The recording tympanum, which is about the size of a crown-piece, is fitted with a mouthpiece, and when it is desired to record a sentence the spindle is started, and you speak into the mouthpiece.

    Heroes of the Telegraph

  • Across the end of this canal, a membrane or skin called the tympanum is stretched, like the parchment over the head of a drum, and it is this membrane which moves to and fro as the air-waves strike on it.

    The Fairy-Land of Science


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  • In classic architecture, the tympanum is the triangular area within the pediment on the gable end of a building. The pediment is an architectural element consisting of the triangular section found above the horizontal structure, all of which rests on columns.

    June 24, 2009