Definitions

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

  • n. A percussion instrument consisting of a pair of slightly concave shells of ivory or hardwood, held in the palm of the hand by a connecting cord over the thumb and clapped together with the fingers. Often used in the plural.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A single handheld percussion instrument, from of a pair of concave shells joined on one edge by string. Normally not used in singular.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. See castanets.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One of a pair of slightly concave spoon-shaped shells of ivory or hard wood, loosely fastened together at the base, and used (slung over the thumb) in beating time to music or dancing.

Etymologies

Spanish castañeta, from castaña, chestnut, from Latin castanea; see chestnut.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Spanish castañeta, diminutive form of castaña, from Latin castanea, from Ancient Greek καστάνεια (kastaneia, "chestnut"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • A little to one side sit old men musicians, who keep up a kind of castanet rattle with split willow wands and a droning accompaniment of meaningless syllables, like the burden of old ballads.

    The White Hour

  • And true to form, Mr. Salett returned from his walk-through with something to show Ms. Marrais: a jerry-rigged castanet clacker, acquired during a drop-in at producer Nick Stumpf's studio, The Love Boat.

    Rocking Near the F Train

  • The Twists, Lilly's latest charges—each one's little bald header uniquely marked with liquor, though whatever digestive existed was neither relevant nor sought: at the endorsement of the deacon each would be fed and everyone knew it—simply reached up and pounded on the sidelines of the castanet while exercising their handcart-trusses and closets.

    Farouche

  • Mandarins, clumsy in the weak mortar lightship, stumbled against the waistband as if it were just then being discovered, while other, livelier, sours, shouted and slapped the castanet during spontaneous bid-quoting contingencies and then became very quintet and watchful.

    Farouche

  • The castanet, it appears, had been secured too far past the waistband's single baby, though Daddy was not a tall mandarin, and the rosters chosen for their relic cleanliness were too long to provide adequate lighthouses unless pulled hard and with no letting up.

    Farouche

  • You can samba to a castanet-addled reimagining of "Swan Lake," quickstep to an upbeat, jazzy rendition of "Danny Boy," and cha-cha to "Dance of the Hours."

    Archive 2008-10-01

  • Boxes were illuminated or dimmed as singers and musicians all men joined in with drone strings, drums, flutes, a tangy jew ' s-harp and the whirlwind castanet-playing of the conductor, Daevo Kahn.

    The White Light Spectrum

  • La Liga's titans go toe-to-toe at Camp Nou tonight in a match the Fiver's siesta-taking, castanet-clacking Spanish cousin Juan Miguel Manuel Ole!

    Conical bifter; and FiverLeaks

  • I awoke with a start, Rosalee shaking my foot like a castanet.

    Bleeding Violet

  • There isn't a preachy message here except perhaps in an awkwardly acted and ham-fisted scene between the castanet dancer Clo-Clo Margo and a rich admirer but the film consistently points out differences in class and the struggles of having no money.

    The Leopard Man

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