: a double-reed woodwind instrument having a conical tube, a brilliant penetrating tone, and a usual range from B flat below middle C upward for over 2¹/₂ octaves
oboist noun

Illustration of oboe

Illustration of oboe

Examples of oboe in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Splendid flutes and oboes left dramatic trails, as did its declarative finish, which hung in the air and commanded a respectful silence. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 1 July 2024 The French horn/bassoon/clarinet/oboe/flute quintet Imani Winds is at UConn’s Jorgensen Center. Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant, 3 Feb. 2024 The performance will feature the Atlantic Reed Consort, an ensemble made up of a bass clarinet, bassoon, clarinet, oboe and saxophone, as well as sopranos Colleen Daly and Laura Strickling. Susan Soldavin, Baltimore Sun, 15 May 2024 The performance on Wednesday, conducted by Jane Glover, was supposed to include Mozart’s Oboe Concerto, with the solo part taken by the orchestra’s principal oboe, Liang Wang. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 9 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for oboe 

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

Word History


Italian, from French hautbois — more at hautbois

First Known Use

circa 1726, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of oboe was circa 1726

Dictionary Entries Near oboe

Cite this Entry

“Oboe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oboe. Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a musical instrument in the form of a slender tube that has a distinctive bright sound and that is played by blowing into a mouthpiece holding two reeds
oboist noun

from Italian oboe "oboe," from French hautbois (same meaning), from haut "high" and bois "wood"

Word Origin
The musical instrument we now call an oboe was developed in France in the 17th century. The French called it a hautbois, a word pronounced something like English "o boy" and made up of haut, meaning "high," and bois, meaning "wood." The hautbois was the highest pitched member of a group of woodwind instruments played with a reed. For a time the English simply used the French word for the instrument. Sometimes they spelled it hautbois, sometimes hautboy, and sometimes they changed the spelling to oboy or hoboy. Meanwhile, the Italians took the French word as oboe, a spelling closer to the way they pronounced it. In the 18th century it became fashionable in England to prefer Italian musical terms. The English then started using the form oboe instead of hautbois, and so oboe is the form we use today.

More from Merriam-Webster on oboe

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