The lyre (, lýra) is a string instrument known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later periods. The lyre is similar in appearance to a small harp but with distinct differences. The word comes via Latin from the Greek; the earliest reference to the word is the Mycenaean Greekru-ra-ta-e, meaning "lyrists" and written in the Linear B script. The lyres of Ur, excavated in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), date to 2500 BCE. The earliest picture of a lyre with seven strings appears in the famous sarcophagus of Hagia Triada (a Minoan settlement in Crete). The sarcophagus was used during the Mycenaean occupation of Crete (1400 BCE). The recitations of the Ancient Greeks were accompanied by lyre playing.
The lyre of classical antiquity was ordinarily played by being strummed with a plectrum (pick), like a guitar or a zither, rather than being plucked with the fingers as with a harp. The fingers of the free hand silenced the unwanted strings in the chord. However, later lyres were played with a bow, including in Europe and parts of the Middle East.
"Lyre" can either refer specifically to an amateur instrument, which is a smaller version of the professional cithara and eastern- Aegean barbiton, or "lyre" can refer generally to all three instruments as a family.
The term is also used metaphorically to refer to the work or skill of a poet, as in Shelley's "Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is" or Byron's "I wish to tune my quivering lyre,/To deeds of fame, and notes of fire"
The Collaborative International Dictionary
Lyre \Lyre\, n. [OE. lire, OF. lyre, L. lyra, Gr. ?. Cf. Lyra.]
(Mus.) A stringed instrument of music; a kind of harp much used by the ancients, as an accompaniment to poetry.
Note: The lyre was the peculiar instrument of Apollo, the tutelary god of music and poetry. It gave name to the species of verse called lyric, to which it originally furnished an accompaniment.
(Astron.) One of the constellations; Lyra. See Lyra.
Lyre bat (Zo["o]l.), a small bat ( Megaderma lyra), inhabiting India and Ceylon. It is remarkable for the enormous size and curious shape of the nose membrane and ears.
Lyre turtle (Zo["o]l.), the leatherback.
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
n. 1 A stringed musical instrument. 2 A lyre-shaped sheet music holder that attaches to a wind instrument when a music stand is impractical.
Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
harp-like instrument, c.1200, from Old French lire "lyre," from Latin lyra, from Greek lyra, a foreign word of uncertain origin.
n. a harp used by ancient Greeks for accompaniment
Usage examples of "lyre".
Finally, the prince was rewarded as the tent flap was pulled aside and Asteria stepped into the room, looking for all the world like Artemis or golden Aphrodite, her small lyre under one arm, her eyes cast demurely down to her feet, a shy smile on her face.
The small lyre was like the tenor viola di braccio and was called the lyra di braccio.
The caduceus of Hermes, which was given him by Apollo in exchange for the lyre, was a magic wand which exercised influence over the living and the dead, bestowed wealth and prosperity and turned everything it touched into gold.
No, as a parting favor, I shall reveal only your master atrocity, which is this: that you have the brazen effrontery to imagine that your throaty warble should be called singing, and that your caterwauling on the lyre and your sins on the cithara pass, in any sense, for art.
Now, in the fall of 66, he set sail with a great chorus of Augustiani and a virtual army of entertainment laden with lyres, citharas, masks, costumes, and buskins.
He despised the musicians, playing citoles, lyres, pipes that curled like the necks of swans, and what looked like the lid of a trash can.
Female given name in Hellers, possibly cognate with various Terran words meaning lyre, harp, or the poetry or music written to be sung to it.
He lifted the heavy garment over her head, cast it across the lyre stool, and tugged at the tapes holding the sheer cotte closed at her side.
Mudge might have fooled with a lyre or some other stringed instrument before, but the complexity of the duar was clearly beyond him.
When the lyre is strung a certain condition is produced upon the strings, and this is known as accord: in the same way our body is formed of distinct constituents brought together, and the blend produces at once life and that soul which is the condition existing upon the bodily total.
Their ears were astonished by the harsh and unknown sounds of the Germanic dialect, and they ingeniously lamented that the trembling muses fled from the harmony of a Burgundian lyre.
For there on the flat shore were pictures of Grecian lions and Mediterranean goats and maidens with flesh of sand like powdered gold and satyrs piping on hand-carved horns and children dancing, strewing flowers along and along the beach with lambs gambolling after and musicians skipping to their harps and lyres, and unicorns racing youths towards distant meadows, woodlands, ruined temples and volcanoes.
At the moment when a ball struck on the scaffold of the Fontaine des Innocents Jean Goujon who had found the Pagan chisel of Phidias, Ronsard discovered the lyre of Pindar and founded, aided by his pleiad, the great French lyric school.
Here Alma Tadema would have depicted a Sappho with hyacinthine locks, seated at the foot of the marble Hermes, singing to a seven-stringed lyre and surrounded by a chorus of maidens with locks of flame, all pallid and intent, drinking in the pure harmony of the verses.
Master Jainne was standing by a circle of musicians silent at the far end of the ballroom, pipers with single, double and double-reeded instruments of differing sizes and curves backed by lutanists and bowed lyres.