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

  • noun Any of a family of stringed instruments, chiefly of the 1500s and 1600s, having a fretted fingerboard, usually six strings, and a flat back and played with a curved bow.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An obsolete form of vial.
  • noun A musical instrument with strings, essentially not greatly different from the lute and the guitar, except that the strings are sounded by means of a bow drawn across them, not by plucking them with the fingers.
  • noun A large rope formerly used in purchasing an anchor: same as messenger

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

  • noun (Mus.) A stringed musical instrument formerly in use, of the same form as the violin, but larger, and having six strings, to be struck with a bow, and the neck furnished with frets for stopping the strings.
  • noun (Naut.) A large rope sometimes used in weighing anchor.

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

  • noun A viola da gamba, a family of musical instruments that preceded the violin and viola and similar string instruments

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

  • noun any of a family of bowed stringed instruments that preceded the violin family


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

[Alteration of Middle English viel, from Old French viole, vielle, from Old Provençal viola; see viola.]


  • The tastefulness of his treble viol playing and the more resonant, lower lyra viol is fetching, and his rhythmic liveliness is always in evidence, but 28 dances are slightly too much of a very good thing.

    Jordi Savall: The Celtic Viol II – review

  • The ensembles and the label are each the responsibility of Mr. Savall, a trained cellist, who has turned a youthful curiosity about the viola da gamba — an antique stringed instrument combining aspects of the cello and guitar, alternatively known as the viol — into a pan-musical enterprise.

    Blurring Traditional Boundaries

  • In my opinion, the haunting, ethereal, and rather 'open' sound of the viol is the perfect medium to convey the true character of Bach's final masterpiece.


  • Anyway, on that song he played something called a viol, which has a mandolin-type sound.


  • The Hebrew word nebhel, so rendered, is translated "viol" in Isa.

    Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • To the first class belong the harp, the psaltery (also rendered "viol", "dulcimer", etc.), the sackbut (Lat.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 2: Assizes-Browne

  • Marais's "Musette" rocked back and forth over two repeated chords, with the drone of the viol's low strings evoking the eponymous medieval bagpipe.


  • With over 150 concert dates and five or six record releases a year, Mr. Savall actively combines a solo career as a viol player with that of conductor and early music theoretician.

    Blurring Traditional Boundaries

  • "It's a very special instrument," Mr. Savall says of the viol.

    Blurring Traditional Boundaries

  • 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.



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  • "And, for the general good of all mankind, he gave up playing the viol through being too busy with his duties, and we must all thank those who gave him a bishopric for visiting this kindness on God's creation."

    —Iain Pears, An Instance of the Fingerpost (New York: Riverhead Books, 1998), 682

    October 16, 2008