Definition of shawm in English:



  • A medieval and Renaissance wind instrument, forerunner of the oboe, with a double reed enclosed in a wooden mouthpiece, and having a penetrating tone.

    • ‘This 2-cd set ends with a dance by Nicolas Gombert; open your mind to the strong rhythms and nasal timbres of the shawms, sackbuts and bajón - the centuries simply roll back.’
    • ‘The krumhorns featured on this concert were quite harsh in tone, and I did prefer the warmer sound of the shawms used by Piffaro on Saturday night.’
    • ‘‘We play for as much of the journey as we can, and we tend to use our shawm band, the traditional outdoor band with the shawm (an early oboe) and the sackbut, or the shagbolt as it was marvellously called sometimes in ‘early’ England!’’
    • ‘Remnants of a shawm - a form of oboe - dice, draughts and backgammon show that the warship's officers were not short of entertainment after they had feasted on beef, venison, pork and fish.’
    • ‘The multi-skills of the instrumentalists is a source of wonder and, again, the virtuosity is of a sort that does not seek to dazzle; cornetts and shawms are harder than they sound here.’
    • ‘The result is a programme of genuine old fashioned carols, songs and dances, performed on shawms, sackbut, recorders, flutes, curtals, lutes, guitars, harp, bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy.’
    • ‘The double reed consists of two blades of cane bound together (or a single blade folded over and cut at the fold to separate the two blades) so that they beat against each other, as on shawms, oboes, and bassoons.’
    • ‘However, I shall not digress via the ugab and the shawm, tempted as I might be.’
    • ‘Among the items recovered are gold coins, medical equipment, clothing and footwear, and a shawm, a medieval forerunner to the oboe and one of the oldest such musical instruments in the world.’


Middle English: from Old French chalemel, via Latin from Greek kalamos reed.