noun \ˈr-kəs-trə, -ˌkes-\

: a group of musicians who play usually classical music together and who are led by a conductor

the orchestra : a group of seats in a theater that are close to the stage

Full Definition of ORCHESTRA

a :  the circular space used by the chorus in front of the proscenium in an ancient Greek theater
b :  a corresponding semicircular space in a Roman theater used for seating important persons
a :  the space in front of the stage in a modern theater that is used by an orchestra
b :  the forward section of seats on the main floor of a theater
c :  the main floor of a theater
:  a group of musicians including especially string players organized to perform ensemble music — compare band

Examples of ORCHESTRA

  1. He plays violin in the school orchestra.
  2. <the orchestra will be performing a selection of Beethoven pieces tomorrow night>


Latin, from Greek orchēstra, from orcheisthai to dance; perhaps akin to Sanskrit ṛghāyati he trembles, he rages
First Known Use: 1606

Other Music Terms

cacophony, chorister, concerto, counterpoint, madrigal, obbligato, presto, presto, refrain, riff, segue

Rhymes with ORCHESTRA


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Standard layout of a modern symphony orchestra.—© Merriam-Webster Inc.

Instrumental ensemble of varying size and composition. Today the term orchestra usually refers to the traditional large Western ensemble of bowed stringed instruments with brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments, with several players to each string part. The development of the orchestra coincides with the early history of opera. A major antecedent of the modern orchestra was that of the mid-17th-century French court, especially as employed by Jean-Baptiste Lully; it was dominated by 24 bowed strings but also often included woodwind instruments. Trumpets, horns, and timpani were often added in the early 18th century and were standard by the time of Franz Joseph Haydn. During the 19th century there was a considerable expansion, particularly in the number and variety of wind and percussion instruments; some works called for well over 100 musicians. The symphony orchestra changed little in the 20th century. See also orchestration.


Next Word in the Dictionary: orchestra bells
Previous Word in the Dictionary: orchestiid (noun)
All Words Near: orchestra

Seen & Heard

What made you want to look up orchestra? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).