Definitions

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

  • n. A musical instrument composed of a flat sound box with about 30 to 40 strings stretched over it and played horizontally with the fingertips, a plectrum, or a bow, or set into vibration by the wind, as in the Aeolian harp.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A musical instrument consisting of a flat sounding box with numerous strings, placed on a horizontal surface, and played with a plectrum and fingertips; similar to a dulcimer. In the Norwegian harpeleik and Swedish cittra versions, the instrument is considered a chorded zither and usually has 7 (Norwegian) to 9 (Swedish) chords, some with as many as 11 strings each, which are mostly strummed and damped as chords, although sometimes plucked. The Norwegian harpeleik and Swedish cittra are still in production by a German manufacturer.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An instrument of music used in Austria and Germany. It has from thirty to forty wires strung across a shallow sounding-board, which lies horizontally on a table before the performer, who uses both hands in playing on it. [Not to be confounded with the old lute-shaped cittern, or cithern.]

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Same as cithern.

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

  • n. a musical stringed instrument with strings stretched over a flat sounding board; it is laid flat and played with a plectrum and with fingers

Etymologies

German, from Middle High German *zitter, from Old High German zitera, from Latin cithara, cithara, from Greek kitharā.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From German, from Latin cithara, from Ancient Greek κιθάρα (kithara, "kind of harp"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • And one guy on a zither was a lot cheaper than hiring an orchestra.

    The Theme From the Movie

  • Yes, indeed, the zither is a pearl, only it does not come from the depths of the sea.

    Primitive Love and Love-Stories

  • The soundtrack recalls the zither music that ratchets up the tension in

    PopMatters

  • The zither is a melancholy little instrument; in range of expression it is to the harp what the winchat is to the thrush; or to the violin, what that bird is to the nightingale; yet few instruments are so exciting: here and there along these mountain valleys you may hear a Tyrolese maid set her voice to its plaintive thin tones; but when the strings are swept madly there is mad dancing; it catches at the nerves.

    Vittoria — Volume 5

  • A third was fingering some sort of instrument, a kind of zither or dulcimer with lengths of catgut strung along two axes, one set perpendicularly above the other.

    Son of a Witch

  • The _Santurie_, for instance, a kind of zither, with eighteen sets of three strings each, is a most harmonious instrument from which beautiful effects can be obtained by the player.

    Across Coveted Lands or a Journey from Flushing (Holland) to Calcutta Overland

  • Aged stringed instruments with exotic-sounding names such as zither and tremoloa hang on the walls.

    Craig Daily Press stories

  • "You are the most patient creature alive," said he, "otherwise you would not be contented to go on playing the zither, which is not a very exhilarating instrument, my little Blanquette.

    The Belovéd Vagabond

  • The museum has some china and silver from the Jhelium shipwreck as well as a restored symphonium which still plays, telescopes, typewriters, an Orpheus mechanical zither, swords, and the original framed letter of surrender from the 1982 conflict.

    Margie Goldsmith: Traveling to the Falkland Islands: Sub-Antarctica

  • Though Ruari Murchison's design has trees everywhere, the view is unobstructed by anachronistic gimmicks, save for a beguiling suite of songs by Simon Slater for the much-underused medium of the zither banjo.

    As You Like It

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