The lute, al-`ud; vihuela, viola

The lute, al-`ud

The musical instrument we call lute in English, (French: luth, German: Laute, Dutch: luit, Spanish: la˙d, Portuguese: ala˙de) takes it name from the Arabic word al-`u:d, or العود in Arabic script.
The definite article al has become part of the word in the other languages. The sound I transcribe here by ` is a pharyngal voiced approximant.

According to A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, by Hans Wehr, edited by J M. Cowan, this word `u:d   ( عود ) has these meanings:
wood; stick, rod, pole; branch, twig, switch; stem, stalk; cane, reed; aloes (wood); lute (musical instrument); body, build, physique; strength, force, intensity;

The original Arabic instrument, most often called oud, which looks similar to a lute, but not the same, also still exists. It is one of the instruments that Gregor Schaefer plays.


Vihuela, viola

In Portuguese fado music, the word guitarra is reserved for the Portuguese guitar , whereas what in most other languages is a Spanish guitar guitar is referred to as viola. This has nothing to do with a bigger and lower sounding type of violin, which is what the word viola means in other languages.

Interestingly, Spanish has the cognate word vihuela, which also denotes a guitar-like shaped instrument. The Portuguese word viola, says the Porto Editora dictionary, derives from Provenšal viula. Provenšal, Occitan or Langue d'Oc was the language of the troubadours, the minstrels, but not the bards.


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