Definition of cittern in English:


(also cithern)


  • A stringed instrument similar to a lute, with a flattened back and wire strings, used in 16th- and 17th-century Europe.

    • ‘But as soon as the six musicians began to play, pure beauty arose from the wondrously cacophonic and exotic noises of lute strumming, recorder tuning, cittern plucking, and crumhorn adjusting.’
    • ‘One of the commonest consorts in the Elizabethan period was the combination of treble viol or violin, flute or recorder, bass viol, lute, cittern, and bandora, for which Morley wrote his Consort Lessons in 1599.’
    • ‘The only plan we had was to base the album more around the tinkles - the wee guitars, cittern, banjo and mandolin - instead of having lots of flutes and fiddles playing tune bits in the middle of songs.’
    • ‘Viols, rebecs, citterns, lutes, and wooden flutes help.’
    • ‘The sitter was a musical lady who sang and played the cittern, which she holds, and the viola da gamba, the instrument hanging in the background.’


Mid 16th century: from Latin cithara, from Greek kithara, denoting a kind of harp. The spelling has been influenced by gittern.