vi·​ol | \ ˈvī(-ə)l How to pronounce viol (audio) , ˈvī-(ˌ)ōl How to pronounce viol (audio) \

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

Examples of viol in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

FRETWORK The English viol consort stops in Boston on its American tour, joined by countertenor Iestyn Davies. Zoë Madonna,, "Boston’s 15 must-see classical music groups for fall," 5 Sep. 2019 With Amelie Chemin, viol; Thomas Boysen, theorbo; Markus Hunninger, harpsichord. Chronicle Staff Report, San Francisco Chronicle, "Classical music and dance listings," 1 Mar. 2018 In addition to his wife and son Laurence, a viol player and musicologist, Mr. Dreyfus is survived by a daughter, violist Karen Dreyfus; son Daniel Dreyfus; five grandchildren; and sister Ethel Tumim. Peter Dobrin,, "Philadelphia Orchestra stalwart violinist George Dreyfus, 97," 4 Aug. 2017 The intimate Sunday concert at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington would have benefited from a brief introduction to the recorders and viols that played in J.S. Bach’s Cantata No. Janelle Gelfand,, "Questions arise as May Festival sees a more visual future for chorus," 21 June 2017

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.

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First Known Use of viol

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for 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 fiddle entry 1), 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.

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Last Updated

11 Sep 2019

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The first known use of viol was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of viol

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

More from Merriam-Webster on viol

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with viol Encyclopedia article about viol

Comments on viol

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


to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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