: 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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The visage of Gustavo Dudamel looks over Grand Avenue, and the sounds of oboes, pianos and cellos drift from the Colburn School. Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, 25 Apr. 2023 Moore, a native of Connecticut and later resident of Pennsylvania, also played at times in the Cleveland Orchestra, and there caught the ear of principal oboe Frank Rosenwein, the successor to Moore’s teacher, John Mack. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, 21 Oct. 2021 Linney’s got an assertive alto, while Hecht’s timbre is reedier and more winding, a viola and oboe. Vulture, 25 Apr. 2023 Marc Lachat’s oboe could have been the jolting voice of a wild animal in the jungle. Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 10 Mar. 2023 But there’s also a series of dialogues between the solo violin and individual musicians in the orchestra: cello (Jolyon Pegis), trumpet (L. Russell Campbell), bassoon (Scott Walzel), oboe (Erin Hannigan), flute (Hayley Grainger) and violin (concertmaster Alexander Kerr). Dallas News, 18 Nov. 2022 Valenzuela shaped this unruly piece as best as he could, aided by solid playing from the winds and brass, especially from principals Elena Yarritu on flute, Carol Rothrock on oboe, Paul Miller on clarinet, Cynthia McGregor on horn, and Ken Fitzgerald on trumpet. Christian Hertzog, San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 Oct. 2022 Seventeen pieces of musical equipment supplied to the school band in 2016 as part of the $800 million bond referendum were lost or stolen, including a $4,800 bass clarinet, a $5,200 bassoon, five trumpets, two saxophones, two trombones, a flute and an oboe. Scott Travis, sun-sentinel.com, 17 Oct. 2020 Similarly, the pi nai, the oboe-like instrument played at Thai boxing matches, plays notes and intervals that can’t be mimicked on the piano. Allison Parshall, Scientific American, 22 Mar. 2023 See More

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 27 May. 2023.

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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