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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ Both zither and dance music are played once a week.
▪ Once a week there is a gala buffet with zither music.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Zither \Zith"er\, n. [G. zither. See Cittern.] (Mus.) An instrument of music used in Austria and Germany. It has from thirty to forty wires strung across a shallow sounding-board, which lies horizontally on a table before the performer, who uses both hands in playing on it.

Note: [Not to be confounded with the old lute-shaped cittern, or cithern.]

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

stringed musical instrument, 1850, from German Zither, from Old High German zitara, from Latin cithara, from Greek kithara "lute" (see guitar).


n. 1 (context music English) A musical instrument consisting of a flat sounding box with numerous strings placed on a horizontal surface, played with a plectrum or fingertips. 2 (context music translations English) related or similar instruments in other cultures, such as the Chinese ''guqin'' or Norwegian ''harpeleik''.


n. a musical stringed instrument with strings stretch over a flat sounding box; it is laid flat and played with a plectrum and with fingers [syn: cither, zithern]


Zither ( or , ) is a class of stringed instruments.

The word zither is a German rendering of the Latin word cithara, from which the modern word " guitar" is also derived. Historically, it has been used to describe any instrument of the cittern family, or an instrument consisting of many strings stretched across a thin, flat body – similar to a psaltery. This article describes the second variety.

Zithers are played by strumming or plucking the strings, either with the fingers (sometimes using an accessory called a plectrum or pick), sounding the strings with a bow, or, with varieties of the instrument like the santur or cimbalom, by beating the strings with specially shaped hammers. Like a guitar or lute, a zither's body serves as a resonating chamber ( sound box), but, unlike guitars and lutes, a zither lacks a distinctly separate neck assembly. The number of strings varies, from one to more than fifty.

In modern common usage the term "zither" refers to three specific instruments: the concert zither ( German: Konzertzither), its variant the Alpine zither (both using a fretted fingerboard), and the chord zither (more recently described as a fretless zither). Concert and Alpine zithers are traditionally found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, France, north-western Croatia, the southern regions of Germany and alpine Europe. Emigration from these areas during the 19th century introduced the concert and Alpine zither to North and South America. Chord zithers similar to the instrument in the photograph also became popular in North America during the late 19th and early 20th century. These variants all use metal strings, similar to the cittern.

Usage examples of "zither".

Then Tetrachord, still with a couple of arms around Triad, turned to his electronic zither and twisted some frets.

The English visitors could hear the occasional twanging of a zither, the strumming of a piano, snatches of laughter and shouting and singing, a faint vibration of voices.

Lake of the Golden House, assemble trumpeters, zither players, flutists, cymbalists, foot-cymbalists, and singers.

In New Orleans it was just robes and halos and once a season a zither.

Whenever we came to an innyard, he played a zither while I did my bareback tricks.

All through Austria, in every dining room, those poor, pathetic, imitation Strausses, with accordions and harmonicas and zithers, playing their poor, pathetic renditions of Strauss.

Shamus says he does not know if I can ever make a fighter of this guy because Bridget coddles him until he is nothing but a mush-head, and Shamus says he is sick and tired of seeing the guy sitting around the house doing nothing but reading and playing the zither.

On a sideboard rested a miscellany of curios and oddments: a pyramid of black stone, a coil of rope, glass bottles, small masks hanging on a board, stacked books, a zither, a brass instrument of many arcs and beams, a bouquet of flowers carved from stone.

But it could not be done then, so she turned to admire Merry's bed-shoes, the pots of pansies, hyacinths, and geranium which Gus and his sisters sent for her window garden, Molly's queer Christmas pie, and the zither Ed promised to teach her how to play upon.

So they played on very gently and just touching the cords of the zithers with their long pointed nails, and their heads began to nod as though they were falling asleep.

Then at another signal they all flung themselves again to the ground and lay there quite still, the dull strumming of the zithers being the only sound that broke the silence.

Corner musicians with lutes and zithers and flutes sent out frenzied music to compete with the laughter that filled the air, laughter raucous, drunken, hysterical, forced.

Two lyres, four zithers, three flutes and six harps of assorted sizes were being played, but by musicians scattered about the room, and no two playing the same tune.

Boisterous laughter warred with a thousand different tunes from flutes and drums and horns, zithers and bitterns and dulcimers.

Fiddles and flutes, dulcimers and zithers and drums spun harmony and counterpoint around the wagons at almost any hour, in camp or on the move.