Definitions

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

  • n. A narrow, often hourglass-shaped stringed instrument having three or four strings and a fretted fingerboard, typically held flat across the knees while sitting and played by plucking or strumming. Also called Appalachian dulcimer, mountain dulcimer.
  • n. The hammered dulcimer.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A stringed instrument, with strings stretched across a sounding board, usually trapezoidal. It's played on the lap or horizontally on a table. Some have their own legs. These musical instruments are played by plucking on the strings (traditionally with a quill) or by tapping on them (in the case of the hammer dulcimers).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An instrument, having stretched metallic wires which are beaten with two light hammers held in the hands of the performer.
  • n. An ancient musical instrument in use among the Jews. Dan. iii. 5. It is supposed to be the same with the psaltery.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A musical instrument consisting of a body shaped like a trapezium, over which are stretched a number of metallic strings, having a compass—sometimes diatonic, sometimes chromatic—of from 2 to 3 octaves.
  • n. A kind of woman's bonnet.

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

  • n. a trapezoidal zither whose metal strings are struck with light hammers
  • n. a stringed instrument used in American folk music; an elliptical body and a fretted fingerboard and three strings

Etymologies

Alteration (influenced by Latin dulcis, sweet) of Middle English doucemer, from Old French doulcemer, doulcemele, probably from Latin dulce melos, sweet song : dulce, neuter of dulcis, sweet + melos, song (from Greek melos).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French doulcemelle, probably from Latin dulce melos ("sweet song"), from Ancient Greek μέλος (melos, "melody, song"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • No collecting of musical instruments here, although I have to say that I seriously contemplated learning the viola or mountain dulcimer for about a year ... and then remembered that my old piano teacher had gone grey trying to teach me rhythm.

    Six weird things

  • The baby had not been christened yet, but Diamond, in reading his Bible, had come upon the word dulcimer, and thought it so pretty that ever after he called his sister Dulcimer!

    At the Back of the North Wind

  • Here is Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" played on a dulcimer, which is exactly how Lars intended it.

    mental_floss Blog

  • The dulcimer is a beautiful folk instrument that is one of the easiest to play.

    Travel plan idea blog

  • A Little About Dulcimers A dulcimer is a fretted instrument that most commonly includes three or four strings.

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  • Once upon a time, I played a fairly decent version of "On the Banks of the Ohio" on my mountain dulcimer, which is pictured below.

    Wounded Bird

  • I played hammered dulcimer, which is a completely different instrument, on my first record, on the song "The Red Plains."

    Riverfront Times | Complete Issue

  • Among the names of musical instruments in Daniel iii. 5 and 15, the sixth, generally but wrongly rendered "dulcimer," is thought by many scholars to signify a kind of bag-pipe (see commentaries on _Daniel_ and the theological encyc.).

    Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 3, Part 1, Slice 2 "Baconthorpe" to "Bankruptcy"

  • (which was of course derived from the Egyptian _nabla_, just as the _kinnor_ probably was in some mysterious manner derived from the Chinese _kin_) was a kind of dulcimer or zither, an oblong box with strings which were struck by small hammers.

    Critical and Historical Essays Lectures delivered at Columbia University

  • In the 1750s, in the German town of Bethany on the Georgia frontier, the wife of the local school master was publicly censured and her husband dismissed from his position after she “conceived a lust to dance, and actually did dance” to the sounds of a dulcimer.

    A Renegade History of the United States

Comments

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  • Still a pretty word though and I appreciate seeing the quote here. Thanks.

    November 29, 2007

  • Oops! Oroboros already has a Kubla Khan list. Sometimes I feel like Butters on South Park - any idea I might have has already been done.

    November 29, 2007

  • A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw:
    It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight 'twould win me
    That with music loud and long
    I would build that dome in air,
    That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
    And all who heard should see them there,
    And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
    His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
    Weave a circle round him thrice,
    And close your eyes with holy dread,
    For he on honey-dew hath fed
    And drunk the milk of Paradise.

    Enter a person from Porlock, stage right....

    November 29, 2007