viol

noun vi·ol \ ˈvī(-ə)l , ˈvī-(ˌ)ōl \
Updated on: 11 Sep 2017

Definition of viol

:a bowed stringed instrument chiefly of the 16th and 17th centuries made in treble, alto, tenor, and bass sizes and distinguished from members of the violin family especially in having a deep body, a flat back, sloping shoulders, usually six strings, a fretted fingerboard, and a low-arched bridge

Recent Examples of viol from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of viol

Middle English vial, borrowed from Anglo-French viel, viele, viole, corresponding to continental Old French viele (by suffix substitution vielle) and viole, from a Gallo-Romance base vi-, attested earliest in Old Occitan viola, viula "viol," of uncertain origin
Note: It has been claimed that the base vi- is of onomatopoeic origin, originally in verbal derivatives (Old French vieller, Old Occitan violar "to play a stringed instrument"), from which the noun designating the instrument is derived. However, it is unlikely that the resemblance between the viola words and Germanic *fiþlō- (whence Old High German fidula, Old English *fiðele; see 1fiddle), a noun probably designating a string instrument, is pure chance, and borrowing from Germanic into Gallo-Romance seems more plausible than the reverse direction (despite the unexplained voicing of initial f). Medieval Latin vitula, vidula (best attested in English documents) are not necessarily indicative of an earlier Gallo-Romance form of viola, as the Germanic etymon may have contaminated the Romance word. There is no likely relation between the Medieval Latin words and Latin Vītula "goddess of joy," vītulārī "to utter a cry of exultation," which should have developed quite differently in Romance.


VIOL Defined for English Language Learners

viol

noun

Definition of viol for English Language Learners

  • : a musical instrument used in the past that is similar to a violin


Learn More about viol


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

money or riches

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one-green-toy-robot-amidst-many-red-toy-robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!