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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ The tympanum is exceptionally large and, with the lintel below, depicts the Last Judgement.
▪ The north doorway has a remarkable tympanum deeply set in the porch like that at Autun.
▪ Walk around the outside of the N transept of the church whose fine tympanum relief is now in St George's Gallery.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Tympanum \Tym"pa*num\, n.; pl. E. Tympanums, L. Tympana. [L., a kettledrum, a drum or wheel in machines, the triangular area in a pediment, the panel of a door, Gr. ?, ?, fr. ? to strike, beat. See Type, and cf. Timbrel.]

  1. (Anat.)

    1. The ear drum, or middle ear. Sometimes applied incorrectly to the tympanic membrane. See Ear.

    2. A chamber in the anterior part of the syrinx of birds.

  2. (Zo["o]l.) One of the naked, inflatable air sacs on the neck of the prairie chicken and other species of grouse.

  3. (Arch.)

    1. The recessed face of a pediment within the frame made by the upper and lower cornices, being usually a triangular space or table.

    2. The space within an arch, and above a lintel or a subordinate arch, spanning the opening below the arch.

  4. (Mech.) A drum-shaped wheel with spirally curved partitions by which water is raised to the axis when the wheel revolves with the lower part of the circumference submerged, -- used for raising water, as for irrigation.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"drum of the ear," 1610s, from Medieval Latin tympanum, introduced in this sense by Italian anatomist Gabriello Fallopio (1523-1562), from Latin tympanum "a drum, timbrel, tambourine," from Greek tympanon "a kettledrum," from root of typtein "to beat, strike" (see type (n.)). Compare Old English timpan "drum, timbrel, tambourine," from Latin tympanum. The modern meaning "a drum" is attested in English from 1670s.


n. 1 (context architecture English) A triangular space between the sides of a pediment. 2 (context architecture English) The space within an arch, and above a lintel or a subordinate arch, spanning the opening below the arch. 3 The middle ear. 4 The eardrum. 5 A hearing organ in frogs, toads and some insects. 6 (context engineering English) A drum-shaped wheel with spirally curved partitions by which water is raised to the axis when the wheel revolves with the lower part of the circumference submerged; used for raising water, as for irrigation.

  1. n. the main cavity of the ear; between the eardrum and the inner ear [syn: middle ear, tympanic cavity]

  2. the membrane in the ear that vibrates to sound [syn: eardrum, tympanic membrane, myringa]

  3. a large hemispherical brass or copper percussion instrument with a drumhead that can be tuned by adjusting the tension on it [syn: kettle, kettledrum, tympani, timpani]

  4. [also: tympana (pl)]


Tympanum may refer to:

  • Tympanum (architecture), an architectural element located within the arch or pediment
  • Tympanum (anatomy), a hearing organ/gland in frogs and toads, a flat red oval on both sides of a frog's head
  • Tympanum, in biology, the eardrum
  • Tympanum, a circular, drum-like rack on which victims were tortured.
  • Timpano, in music, singular of timpani, a kettledrum
  • Tympanum (hand drum), a percussion instrument in ancient Greece and Rome
  • Tympanum, or tympanal organ, a hearing organ in insects
  • Sakia or saqiya, in Latin "tympanum", a water-raising device
Tympanum (anatomy)

The tympanum is an external hearing structure in animals such as frogs, toads, insects, and mammals.

Tympanum (architecture)

In architecture, a tympanum (plural, tympana) is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element. In ancient Greek and Roman and in Christian architecture tympana usually contain religious imagery, when on religious buildings, and are very often the most important, or only, location for monumental sculpture on the outside of a building. In classical architecture, and in classicising styles from the Renaissance onwards, major examples are usually triangular; in Romanesque architecture they have a semi-circular shape, or that of a thinner slice from the top of a circle, and in Gothic architecture they have a more vertical shape, coming to a point at the top. These shapes naturally influence the typical compositions of sculpture within the tympanum.

Bands of molding surrounding the tympanum are referred to as the archivolt. In medieval French architecture the tympanum is often supported by a decorated pillar called a trumeau.

Tympanum (hand drum)

In ancient Greece and Rome, the tympanum or tympanon , was a type of frame drum or tambourine. It was circular, shallow, and beaten with the palm of the hand or a stick. Some representations show decorations or zill-like objects around the rim. The instrument was played by worshippers in the rites of Dionysus, Cybele, and Sabazius.

The instrument came to Rome from Greece and the Near East, probably in association with the cult of Cybele. The first depiction in Greek art appears in the 8th century BC, on a bronze votive disc found in a cave on Crete that was a cult site for Zeus.

Usage examples of "tympanum".

Ambrogio, Milan, where the tympana of the well-known baldachin are of this material, and contain modelled figures.

The outermost of the three ossicles is attached to the tympanum and moves with it.

The whole structure from the tympanum to this small opening, including the tympanic cavity and the ossicles, is called the middle ear.

The function of the ossicles is more than that of transmitting the vibration pattern of the tympanum.

Egyptology led me to associate them with the flute, the sambuke, the sistrum, and the tympanum.

In this tree-toad there is a long black lateral line running posteriorly from the tympanum and above it a shorter line just as in the drawings.

They stared at each other for a moment, then Scriber made silly squirling gestures at his shoulder tympana.

This is important, because the tympanum will move most sensitively if the air pressure is the same on both sides.

From the foregoing description, it will be seen that the labyrinth and tympanum are the most essential parts of the organs of hearing.

A strange case is reported in a girl of fourteen, who lost her tympanum from a profuse otorrhea, and who substituted an artificial tympanum which was, in its turn, lost by deep penetration, causing augmentation of the symptoms, of the cause of which the patient herself seemed unaware.

And somewhere distant, somewhere near the heart of the rock, in a matriarchal chamber all of its own, something drummed out messages to its companions and helpers, stiffly articulated antlerlike forelimbs beating against stretched tympana of finely veined skin, something that had been waiting here for eternities, something that wanted nothing more than to care for the souls of the lost.

An intriguing single-decker medical-looking bldg. with a sort of tympanum over the smoked-glass door with an ad that says COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF CONFIDENTIAL RECORDS that Gately's always wanted to poke the old head in and have a look at what on earth they might be up to in there.

The secretion of cerumen is increased in response to irritation and the wax may accumulate to the point where it will cover the tympanum and bring about considerable loss of hearing until such time as the ear is washed out.

With one of Scar's tympana hurt, wild gestures made him lose track of his thoughts.

They didn't cover his low-sound ears at all, but instead the forehead and shoulder tympana of his trigger member.