Definition of sistrum in US English:



  • A musical instrument of ancient Egypt consisting of a metal frame with transverse metal rods which rattled when the instrument was shaken.

    • ‘Two students composed a synthesized soundtrack that combined world beat rhythms with the beat of the sacred sistrum on every thrust of the harpoon.’
    • ‘The carved head that is on the handle of the sistrum, is Hathor, the goddess of music.’
    • ‘Drums, sometimes very large, were important in Mesopotamian ritual, while the characteristic instrument of Egyptian ceremony was the sistrum or rattle.’
    • ‘Deacons sing and accompany the song with drums and a sistrum as part of the mass.’


Late Middle English: via Latin from Greek seistron, from seiein ‘to shake’.