Angel playing a lute, from “Presentation in the Temple,” painted altarpiece by Vittore …—SCALA/Art Resource, New York

Plucked stringed instrument popular in 16th–17th-century Europe. It originated from the Arab 'ud, which reached Europe in the 13th century. Like the 'ud, the lute has a deep pear-shaped body with an ornamental soundhole, a fretted neck with a bent-back pegbox, and strings hitched to a bridge glued to the instrument's belly. In later years it acquired several unstopped bass strings. It became the preferred instrument for cultivated amateur musicians and acquired an extensive literature of song accompaniments and solo and consort music.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on lute, visit

Seen & Heard

What made you look up lute? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.