Definition of plectrum in English:



  • 1A thin flat piece of plastic, tortoiseshell, or other slightly flexible material held by or worn on the fingers and used to pluck the strings of a musical instrument such as a guitar.

    • ‘There was a lone bass guitar propped up in a corner across the room, an unplugged amp beside it and plectrums and sheets of paper on the floor around it.’
    • ‘Those plectrums are a bit like a collection of musical bus tickets.’
    • ‘No, we'd probably still be meeting in town each Saturday afternoon half-deaf in our denims with pockets full of plectrums and heads full of cheap dope and impossible dreams.’
    • ‘I normally don't use a plectrum but my right hand fingers were hurting so much I had to relent.’
    • ‘With a jerk, I smashed the plectrum hard down my guitar, sending an ear splitting screech of metal throughout the building.’
    • ‘If you refer to your collection of tortoiseshell guitar picks as plectra, the rest of your rock group are going to make merciless fun of you.’
    • ‘However, this, their debut offering, favours the accomplished philosophy of Kirkwood's plectrum.’
    • ‘I used to work in the music shop there and we'd supply the studios with microphones and leads sometimes and plectrums, lots of plectrums.’
    • ‘He doesn't use a plectrum, preferring to stroke out bass notes with his thumb.’
    • ‘Ten of its twenty-five strings are played with a plectrum, while the others resonate.’
    • ‘All that is needed is an electric guitar, a plectrum, a good quality 20 ft lead and an enthusiasm to learn.’
    • ‘His fingers flew across the frets while I was sure the plectrum he was holding should have been worn to shreds as he played.’
    • ‘I spent another long evening easing the paint off the curves of the guitar with the edge of a plectrum.’
    • ‘In the record's silences, you can actually hear hands on strings, and then the pluck, pull and plectrum that give rise again to their unadorned sound.’
    • ‘The arched-top guitar came to the fore as the regular plectrum guitar for jazz, giving chords of a penetrating, rather metallic quality.’
    • ‘Ben strikes into song after song, the volume adjusted by only the slightest touch of his nimble plectrum, and the band just fall into place behind him and that breathy, to instantly soaring, vocal.’
    • ‘I was wondering if I'd left a plectrum at your house last Saturday.’
    1. 1.1 The mechanical part corresponding to a plectrum which plucks the strings of an instrument such as a harpsichord.
      • ‘In a harpsichord, there is a separate plectrum for each string.’
      • ‘The problems of construction, strings and tunings aside, the critical issue is that the instrument is played not with plectrums, bows or hammers, but only by the hand.’
      • ‘Of all the little maintenance procedures that harpsichord owners must attend to, replacing a plectrum is perhaps the thorniest of issues.’
      • ‘‘Its plectra - which pluck the strings to produce the harpsichord's sound - were replaced using black turkey quills, which they would have been made from originally,’ she said.’


Late Middle English: via Latin from Greek plēktron ‘something with which to strike’, from plēssein ‘to strike’.