Definitions

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

  • n. A small, compact upright piano.
  • n. A small, compact upright electronic organ.
  • n. A small harpsichord with a single keyboard.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A short, compact harpsichord or piano.
  • n. A spinney.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A keyed instrument of music resembling a harpsichord, but smaller, with one string of brass or steel wire to each note, sounded by means of leather or quill plectrums or jacks. It was formerly much used.
  • n. A spinny.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small wood or place where briers and thorns grow; a spinney.
  • n. A musical instrument essentially similar to the harpsichord, but of smaller size and much lighter tone. Also called virginal and couched harp.

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

  • n. a small and compactly built upright piano
  • n. early model harpsichord with only one string per note

Etymologies

Obsolete French espinette, from Italian spinetta, perhaps diminutive of sp─źna, thorn (presumably so called because the strings of the original instrument were plucked with quills); see spinel.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian spinetta. (Wiktionary)
Latin spinetum. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • By some means, and with friendly assistance (perhaps his mother's), he succeeded in smuggling into the garret a spinet, which is a kind of piano.

    Music Talks with Children

  • And to the mention of a Clementi piano, that short, gentle, sad, old, little sort of piano people will insist upon calling a spinet, in her flat.

    The Research Magnificent

  • In addition to the B3, there are a number of smaller Hammond instruments, known as the spinet series (M3, M100, L100, T100).

    Recently Uploaded Slideshows

  • As a child, when my father played piano, I was small enough to hide myself inside the case at the base of my family's spinet.

    The Man With a Thousand Faces

  • Each floral scent was clear, as distinct as the notes Connie played on her old-fashioned spinet.

    The Dressmaker

  • After supper, she played the spinet for a time, filling the house with the rousing sound of "Yankee Doodle."

    The Devil's Bedpost

  • "I don't think I've ever heard that played on a spinet," he told her.

    The Devil's Bedpost

  • After dinner, Swift insisted Betsy Patrick play a few selections on her spinet.

    The Devil's Bedpost

  • I am reminded of the movie, Rachel and the Stranger, where the widower laments that his wife fought so hard to make their isolated cabin a home and bring beauty to it by insisting on planting flowers in the front yard, bringing her spinet to the West and playing it every evening, buying a metronome for her playing, educating their son in the home and insisting that he show good manners.

    Women and Their Dedication to Beauty in 19th Century America

  • When I was a Baptist, fourteen-years-old or so, I dreamed of having a van carrying a Hammond spinet I could haul out at state parks along the road and sing and play, maybe even preach, evangelizing to the wayward I might find in my journeys.

    Lolita on the Lam | clusterflock

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