Definition of theorbo in English:



  • A large lute with the neck extended to carry several long bass strings, used for accompaniment in 17th and early 18th century music.

    • ‘The concert finished well with the viol and theorbo providing good support.’
    • ‘Rather than a mere continuo accompaniment, the soprano Karolina Gorgol was here supported by a luscious ensemble of three strings (no viola), theorbo and guitar, harpsichord and an obligato viola da gamba, played by Ibi Aziz.’
    • ‘Nigel North accompanies suitably on lute, theorbo or guitar.’
    • ‘The dozen instrumentalists are busy with recorder, flute, viols, theorbo, harpsichord and organ.’
    • ‘The instrumental accompaniment is improvisatory, earthy and ingenious: lute, theorbo, guitar and harp continuo, plus up to a trio of violins, viola da gamba, a cornet and a gentle sprinkling of percussion.’
    • ‘The theorbo, lute, and guitar are particularly prominent.’
    • ‘They had a top-notch instrumental group on hand - string quartet, theorbo, organ - to enliven the composer's imaginative backcloths.’
    • ‘In both the concertos and cantatas, the continuo consists of harpsichord, cello, and theorbo.’
    • ‘Four solo motets and one ensemble piece are included on this disc, accompanied by theorbo and cello (the instrumental playing is exquisite - affectionate and laid back).’
    • ‘A harpsichord and a lute-like theorbo serve as continuo.’
    • ‘A young woman wearing a beautiful satin dress with an orange-red jacket stands to greet him while another woman sits at a table playing a theorbo, a musical instrument.’


Early 17th century: from Italian tiorba, of unknown origin.