mbi·​ra | \ em-ˈbir-ə How to pronounce mbira (audio) \

Definition of mbira

: 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 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

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mbira.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of mbira

circa 1911, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for mbira


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Time Traveler for mbira

Time Traveler

The first known use of mbira was circa 1911

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Cite this Entry

“Mbira.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mbira. Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on mbira

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mbira


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