One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A strap or bandage worn across the lips and cheeks by players of the aulos and other wind instruments, apparently to support the mouthpiece against the lips and help maintain the embouchure, or perhaps to avoid excessive strain of the facial muscles when blowing.
Late 18th century; earliest use found in Thomas Busby (1754–1838), composer and author. From ancient Greek ϕορβειά halter for horses, kind of halter used by players of wind instruments to support the mouthpiece against the lips from an ablaut variant of the stem of ϕέρβειν to feed, of unknown origin + -ειά.
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