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

  • n. An ancient stringed instrument played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a plectrum.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An ancient musical instrument, similar to a dulcimer or a zither, and played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a plectrum.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A stringed instrument of music used by the Hebrews, the form of which is not known.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A musical instrument of the zither group, having several or many strings variously tuned, which are sounded by the finger with or without the aid of a plectrum.
  • n. Same as psalter.
  • n. The term is loosely applied to a variety of stringed instruments, some of them lyres or harps, rather than zithers.

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

  • n. an ancient stringed instrument similar to the lyre or zither but having a trapezoidal sounding board under the strings


Middle English psalterie, from Old French, from Latin psaltērium, from Greek psaltērion, from psallein, to play the harp.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek ψαλτήριον (psalterion) “stringed instrument, psaltery, harp”, from ψάλλω (psallo) “to touch sharply, to pluck, to pull, to twitch” and in the case of the strings of musical instruments, “to play a stringed instrument with the fingers, and not with the plectron” (Wiktionary)



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  • "The trumpets, sackbuts, psalteries, and fifes,
    Tabors and cymbals, and the shouting Romans,
    Make the sun dance. Hark you!"
    - William Shakespeare, 'The Tragedy of Coriolanus'.

    August 29, 2009