Middle English dowcemere, from Middle French doulcemer, from Old Italian dolcimelo, from dolce sweet, from Latin dulcis
First Known Use: 15th century
Stringed musical instrument in which the strings are beaten with small hammers rather than plucked. Its soundbox is flat and usually trapezoidal; each pair of strings produces a single note, and the pairs slope upward alternately left and right to facilitate rapid playing. The Hungarian cimbalom is a large dulcimer with legs and a damper pedal, much used in Roma (Gypsy) orchestras. The Appalachian dulcimer is a narrow zither with a fretted fingerboard and three to five strings, which are stopped with one hand and plucked with a plectrum held in the other.