mbi·​ra em-ˈbir-ə How to pronounce mbira (audio)
: an African musical instrument that consists of a wooden or gourd resonator and a varying number of tuned metal or wooden strips that vibrate when plucked

Illustration of mbira

Illustration of mbira

Examples of mbira in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In the early eighties, Laraaji was experimenting with the kalimba, an iteration of the Zimbabwean mbira, a wooden board with staggered metal tines, designed to be played with the thumbs. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 27 Feb. 2023 Enjoy a relaxing, pretty tune in a relaxing, pretty place, played on the kalimba, an instrument based on the mbira, a traditional African finger harp. Aj Willingham, CNN, 15 May 2020 Zimdancehall was one of the emergent new genres — a local spinoff of Jamaican dancehall that used Shona instead of Jamaican English, and sometimes incorporated the mbira, a metal keyboard closely associated with traditional Zimbabwean music. New York Times, 7 Sep. 2019 The mbira consists of a set of steel tines suspended over a sound box. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, 17 Sep. 2018 Grover and his team turned to the mbira to find an answer. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, 13 Sep. 2018 Indian Bollywood, Hawaiian hula and Zimbabwean mbira — along with folk dances of Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines and China — are just a few of the traditions on view in a celebration of the Bay Area’s diverse dance landscape. Siobhan Burke, New York Times, 18 May 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mbira.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



First Known Use

circa 1911, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mbira was circa 1911

Dictionary Entries Near mbira

Cite this Entry

“Mbira.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mbira. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

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