Definition of harpsichord in English:



  • A keyboard instrument with horizontal strings which run perpendicular to the keyboard in a long tapering case, and are plucked by points of quill, leather, or plastic operated by depressing the keys. It is used chiefly in European classical music of the 16th to 18th centuries.

    • ‘Yukio and Pete tuned the viola da gamba and cello to the harpsichord, then Nikki joined in on the Alto recorder.’
    • ‘Mirinda sings a fetching aria about being like a jasmine flower - two harpsichords provide a charming accompaniment - and Elena Cecchi Fedi makes the most of it.’
    • ‘The harpsichord was remarkably bright, and thus at times also rather overpowering.’
    • ‘On the best album yet in this still-young year, the group's jagged fold of guitar, bass and drums welcomes keyboards, harpsichords and even more keyboards.’
    • ‘Curiously, this is the one solo keyboard piece of Bach's I've heard that really demands a harpsichord.’
    • ‘It is usually associated with the organ, although it proves originally to have been intended for the harpsichord with pedals.’
    • ‘The idea to put orchestral or vocal music on the piano came into being at the end of the 18th Century when the piano began to displace the harpsichord.’
    • ‘I plan to visit museums where there are early keyboard instruments, either harpsichords or clavichords.’
    • ‘These six sonatas reflect Bach's increased interest in the harpsichord.’
    • ‘William Christie is a fine Handel stylist though I was surprised he did not direct from the harpsichord as Handel would have done.’
    • ‘Clavier or Klavier normally meant the clavichord, whereas the harpsichord was usually called Instrument or Cembalo.’
    • ‘Her harpsichord and clavichord playing has influenced her piano playing, for example.’
    • ‘Five different harpsichords were used, one an original eighteenth century instrument by Pascal Taskin, the others copies constructed specifically for the recordings.’
    • ‘In terms of tempo, you could take things more slowly on the piano than a harpsichord allows… it's the sustain again.’
    • ‘In both the concertos and cantatas, the continuo consists of harpsichord, cello, and theorbo.’
    • ‘When pianos were first invented, they were similar in size to harpsichords.’
    • ‘With playing such as this, arguments regarding on which sort of instrument, whether piano or harpsichord, they should be played, become redundant.’
    • ‘Mattheson's impressive Sonata and Suite make a fine exploration of the rich and powerful sonorities from two similar harpsichords.’
    • ‘Long experience of working together in an ensemble may help, of course, but there are often problems with the delicate flute, and with some fortepianos and harpsichords.’
    • ‘For a rather odd alternative, we have Glenn Gould playing four of the Eight Suites on a harpsichord.’


Early 17th century: from obsolete French harpechorde, from late Latin harpa ‘harp’ + chorda ‘string’ (the insertion of the letter s being unexplained).