Definition of dulcimer in US English:


(also hammered dulcimer)


  • 1A musical instrument with a sounding board or box, typically trapezoidal in shape, over which strings of graduated length are stretched, played by being struck with handheld hammers.

    • ‘These Central Asian performers and singers play plucked and bowed lutes, dulcimers and drums.’
    • ‘Silk zither and dulcimer with strings are the most common traditional musical instruments.’
    • ‘Viols and lutes sounded in the background, laughing dulcimers wove in and out between the harp notes, bassoons and oboes crooned to violins and the deep, sweet voice of cellos, and he knew it couldn't happen even as it did.’
    • ‘She plays hammer dulcimer and marimba, all kinds of instruments and she does play with some percussion groups at the university.’
    • ‘With six musicians playing the erhu, pipa, Chinese flute, zither, moon guitar and trapeziform dulcimer, they call the music that they play sizhu - the traditional word for musical instruments.’
    • ‘Perfectly balanced with the unique voice are lovely, rising, symphonic chord sequences played on synthesisers and piano, as well as delicate samplings of dulcimer, bodhran, harmonium and cello.’
    • ‘I decked him with my dulcimer - 90 strings, right in the chopper.’
    • ‘Much of it has a suspended quality, of time stretched out, elongated, with overlapping waves of strummings that variously suggest guitars, harps, bells, and dulcimers constellating about a central drone.’
    • ‘Others such as psalteries or dulcimers (O.E. sealm-glig) may have been in use, although there is only some evidence for these prior to the Norman Conquest.’
    • ‘Very early on, I was attracted to the sounds of stringed instruments like the dulcimer and mandolin, which were commonly played in that part of the country.’
    • ‘It was vaguely shaped like a long dulcimer, with at least a dozen strings.’
    • ‘Favoured instruments include the hurdy-gurdy, dulcimer, recorders, zither, guitars and drums.’
    • ‘Instrumentation is sparse, pairing summer's day-on-the-stoop acoustic strums with a instrumental grab bag including banjos, dulcimers, ocarinas, hand drums, and shaken percussion.’
    • ‘Violins and clarinets were used in instrumental combinations in all areas, with the bagpipe (ubiquitous since the Middle Ages) prevalent in Bohemia, and the double bass and dulcimer in Moravia.’
    • ‘King Nebuchadnezzar commanded everyone that at the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, psaltery, dulcimer and all kinds of music they should fall down and worship the golden image.’
    • ‘Between them, the three also play violin, cello and dulcimer.’
    • ‘At their most lighthearted, the duo's bouncy ditties are anchored by sumptuous harmonies and effervescent acoustic guitar, mandolin and dulcimer.’
    • ‘The dulcimer's bridge end has a brighter tone, so I turned the pattern control a bit toward omni, which resulted in a nice, wide cardioid that wasn't entirely focused on the center of the instrument.’
    • ‘Dimotika are traditional rural folk songs often accompanied by a clarinet, lute, violin dulcimer, and drum.’
    • ‘Using anything from toy piano, guitars and dulcimer to synthesisers and Stylophone, the pair continuously change the aspect of their music while keeping with the overall theme.’
    1. 1.1Appalachian dulcimer A musical instrument with a long rounded body and a fretted fingerboard, played by bowing, plucking, and strumming.
      Also called mountain dulcimer
      • ‘A local musician taught rounds and accompanied the girls on a mountain dulcimer one year; a cabin neighbor was a special guest, telling true stories of bears and mountain lions from the area.’
      • ‘Mountain dulcimers are lightweight wooden instruments with only three or four strings; they look like guitars on a diet.’
      • ‘The mountain dulcimer I made many long years ago, which provides entertainment as well as sacred music, has unicorns, stars, and moons carved in it for the sound holes.’
      • ‘He has been playing the mountain dulcimer for over 30 years, delivering wildly uplifting performances around the globe.’


Late 15th century: from Old French doulcemer, probably from Latin dulce melos ‘sweet melody’.