Definition of viol in English:



  • A musical instrument of the Renaissance and baroque periods, typically six-stringed, held vertically and played with a bow.

    • ‘Instead they had to encounter the art by becoming surrogate members of other communities, or sing madrigals or play viols or the virginals at home.’
    • ‘Music ranges from ball-room to Klezmer, from pop to classics; people have even been known to entertain with a consort of viols, but this is too quiet for most tastes.’
    • ‘The dexterity of the violin must be imitated by the viols down below, and is so to thrilling effect.’
    • ‘The Silver Swan is a madrigal that many of us have sung, but it is unlikely that Gibbons would have minded hearing it played as an instrumental piece - he himself suggested that his madrigals could be played by viols instead.’
    • ‘Beginning with the haunting sound of four recorders so infectious it was soon joined by the renaissance guitar, viols and voice for the first song, a celebration of the joys of hunting.’
    • ‘We were also treated to sensitively and beautifully played instrumental items, in combinations such as lute and flute, two recorders, two viols, recorder and viol, and crumhorn and viol.’
    • ‘The viol, a family of string instruments that was predominant prior to the advent of the violin family, has a singing if somewhat fragile tone that instantly seduces.’
    • ‘Although there is a display case devoted to bow-making, there is only one other case exhibiting the progression from the early viol to the contemporary violin.’
    • ‘These discoveries throw important new light on Cobbold's music for voices and viols, and enable an attempt at restoring the hypothetical lost consort anthem to be made.’
    • ‘Early music is the stuff of sackbutts, forte pianos and viols.’
    • ‘Pelham Humfrey and Purcell brought a new, incisive style of string music to the Chapel Royal anthem as violins replaced the old viols.’
    • ‘The leading early makers of violins, whose potential for rhythmic vitality distinguished them in the Baroque era from the viols preferred in the Renaissance, worked in Verona, Brescia, Venice, and Cremona.’
    • ‘The concert finished well with the viol and theorbo providing good support.’
    • ‘He concentrated his efforts on the keyboard parts, presumably because they allowed him to play or imagine the essence of these three anthems even in the absence of singers and viol players.’
    • ‘This collection covers eight sacred solo/duet cantatas for soprano and/or bass with a quartet of period strings - two each of violins and viols de gamba with continuo.’
    • ‘The close relationship between the consort song and the Elizabethan verse anthem makes it at least possible that both genres began with the same scoring: voices and viols.’
    • ‘Instantly, she thought of Christmases past where she would sit by the hearth and Joan would play the viol.’
    • ‘The dozen instrumentalists are busy with recorder, flute, viols, theorbo, harpsichord and organ.’
    • ‘Sibyl watched as Lady Plymouth's private troubadour began to instinctively pluck strings of the viol.’
    • ‘Instrumental support, which mostly doubles the vocal lines, is provided by bamboo flutes, two-stringed viols, lutes, dulcimer, and panpipes, gently seasoned by percussive punctuation.’


Late 15th century (originally denoting a violin-like instrument): from Old French viele, from Provençal viola; probably related to fiddle.