One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1historical A small harpsichord with the strings set obliquely to the keyboard, popular in the 18th century.
- ‘I can practically see at the spinet my Aunt Ida sliding into ‘Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar.’’
- ‘In the spinet, the strings run obliquely away from the player, producing a wing-shaped case, or a trapezoid case in smaller instruments.’
- ‘Matteo Ricci had brought with him a spinet, other Jesuits brought violins and flutes, cellos and bassoons and manuals on music styles.’
- ‘Sarah was fond of music and played the spinet (a musical instrument like a small harpsichord).’
- ‘It will include harpists, a soprano soloist accompanied by the flute and spinet and music by Mozart as well as other lesser-known composers.’
2US A type of small upright piano.
- ‘According to her artist's statement, when she was a young girl, she demanded a piano; her parents bought a spinet piano for her, and her nursery school teacher gave her instruction.’
- ‘Soon afterwards, they bought me a small spinet organ and arranged for me to take lessons.’
- ‘In the great central panel of the Agliardi triptych, a guitar lies strings-down on a spinet and knife and, with a bowl of fruit deposited on top of it, becomes an impromptu piece of furniture.’
- ‘Before recordings were available, people had to wait to hear wonderfully performed music; at home, people either went without or made their own, at parlor spinet pianos or on the porch with guitar and banjo.’
- ‘Two pictures feature color TV sets, and one couple poses in front of a spinet piano, a very rare object in a Chinese household.’
- ‘These baby baby grands and tiny spinets produce three octaves from hammers hitting metal rods.’
Mid 17th century: shortening of obsolete French espinette, from Italian spinetta ‘virginal, spinet’, diminutive of spina ‘thorn’ (see spine), the strings being plucked by quills.
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