Definitions

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

  • n. An obsolete double-reed instrument with a soft tone.
  • n. A mute, especially one for a violin.
  • n. A stop on an organ producing a low, muted tone.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A muted trumpet.
  • n. A mute; a damper.
  • adj. Muffled, muted; subdued.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Same as mute, 3.
  • n. In the harmonium, a mechanical stop whereby the supply of wind to the lower vibrators is partially cut off, and the playing of full chords softly is facilitated.
  • Softly played; muted; pathetic.

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

  • n. an organ stop resulting in a soft muted sound
  • n. a mute for a violin

Etymologies

French, from Italian sordina, feminine of sordino, a mute, diminutive of sordo, deaf, mute; see sordino.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French sourdine. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • En sourdine posted by Cooper Renner in beauty, music | * | comment

    En sourdine | clusterflock

  • A shambling family of starlings on Coll in May, debauched and chaotic and moaning about winter, above a corncrake still stoking up the year with its crex crex song “endorsing summer” as Louis MacNeice says, with the “sourdine in their throat” as Andrew Marvell says;

    A Year on the Wing

  • Or a ladyeater may perhaps have casualised as you temptoed her … la sourdine: Of your plates?

    Finnegans Wake

  • The more complete sourdine, which muted all the strings by contact of a long strip of leather, acted as the staccato, pizzicato, or pianissimo.

    Scientific American Supplement, No. 385, May 19, 1883

  • Many are like the music en sourdine of Paul Verlaine in his "Chanson D'Automne" or "Le Piano que Baise une Main Frele."

    Chopin : the Man and His Music

  • sourdine in their throat—Andrew Marvell, “Upon Appleton House,” Marvell, p.

    A Year on the Wing

  • La liberté de la contradiction centuple le prix d'une libre adhésion; et à force de mettre une sourdine à toutes les émotions du pays, il faut prendre garde qu'on ne se trouve un jour dans l'impossibilité de faire vibrer les cordes les plus essentielles quand le moment des dangers et des sacrifices sera arrivé. ']' I deeply regret the publication of that letter.

    Correspondence & Conversations of Alexis de Tocqueville with Nassau William Senior from 1834 to 1859, Volume 2

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