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Borrowed from Old French psalterie, from Latin psaltērium, from Ancient Greek ψαλτήριον (psaltḗrion, stringed instrument, psaltery, harp), from ψάλλω (psállō, to touch sharply, to pluck, to pull, to twitch) and in the case of the strings of musical instruments, “to play a stringed instrument with the fingers, and not with the plectron”.


psaltery (plural psalteries)

  1. (music) A zither-like musical instrument consisting of a soundboard with multiple strings, played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a plectrum.
    And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps. (Nehemiah 12:27, KJV)

Usage notes[edit]

In the King James Version of the Bible, "psaltery" is used as a translation for certain words whose referent isn't known: the Hebrew כְּלִי‎ (kli) and נֵבֶל‎ (nével), and the Aramaic פְּסַנְתֵּרִין‎ (psanterín).

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