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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Rebec \Re"bec\ (r[=e]"b[e^]k), n. [F., fr. It. ribeca, ribeba, fr. Ar. rab[=a]b a musical instrument of a round form.]

  1. (Mus.) An instrument formerly used which somewhat resembled the violin, having three strings, and being played with a bow. [Written also rebeck.]

    He turn'd his rebec to a mournful note.

  2. A contemptuous term applied to an old woman. [Obs.]

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

medieval stringed musical instrument, early 15c., from Middle French rebec (15c.), an unexplained alteration (perhaps somehow influenced by bec "beak") of Old French ribabe (13c.), ultimately from Arabic rebab. Compare Old Provençal rebec, Italian ribeca. It has three strings and is played with a bow.


n. (context musical instruments English) An early three-stringed instrument, somewhat like a simple violin.


The rebec (sometimes rebecha, rebeckha, and other spellings, pronounced or ) is a bowed stringed instrument of the Medieval era and Renaissance era. In its most common form, it has a narrow boat-shaped body and 1-5 strings. Played on the arm or under the chin, the technique and tuning may have influenced the development of the violin.

Usage examples of "rebec".

The rebec was not known in Arabia until nearly two centuries after we find the crwth mentioned by Venance Fortunatus.

The ravanastron he brought home with him from India, and under the name Rebec it found its way into Europe, where in an appreciative soil it grew and expanded into that miracle of sonority and expression, the modern violin.

Next came the minstrels, playing merrily on tabor, fife, sacbut, rebec, and tambourine.

At this instant the united sound of the lofty harp, the melodious rebec, and the chearful pipe, summoned them once again to the plain.

A band consisting of a flaternette, a floozie, a rebec, a cit-terne, a serpent, a tabor, a tambour, and three large brass instruments that sounded like extremely unhappy livestock marched into the field.

I must get him to try his hand on rebec or organetto, and see what he can do.

And when he had picked apart and set out in order all the fragments of the rebec, and placed the vellum that held them in a safe corner, covered with a linen cloth, to await full light next day, he confronted Liliwin at once with his own small portative organ, and demanded he should try his hand with that.

Soft music of lutes and rebecs at once began to issue from the adjacent ballroom.

It was run nominally by an Austrian named Vogt, who worked painstakingly during the daylight hours putting together rebecs, shawms and theorbos, and spied at night.

To make up for it the sound of the rebecs seemed to be trapped in the helmet.