Word of the Day

sitar

Definition

an Indian musical instrument like a guitar with a long neck and a round body

Origin and usage

The word sitar comes from the Persian word ‘si’ meaning ‘three’ and the root word ‘tar’ meaning ‘string’. The word and the instrument it describes are very old, but they first became known in English around 1845.



Examples

Sitar refers to a stringed instrument popular in northern Indian classical music. The sitar is also found in the music of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Most sitars have a long, hollow, wooden neck and a deep, pear-shaped body. A sitar is typically about 1.2 metres long and features tuning pegs on both the front and side of the neck, as well as 20 arched frets.

A sitar has a number of metal strings, each responsible for a different element of sound. Five strings play the melody, one or two strings keep the rhythm, and up to 13 additional strings can be added to enhance the raga, or melodic structure, of a piece of music.

Sitar players sit on the floor, holding the instrument in their laps at a 45-degree angle. The sitar is played by plucking the strings with a wire tool worn on the forefinger as the left hand manipulates the strings, much like a guitar.

Though the sitar is a common instrument in traditional Indian music, it grew in popularity in the West during the 1960s and influenced rock and popular musicians of the day, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Yes.

Quotations

“Many people, especially young people, have started listening to sitar since George Harrison, one of The Beatles, became my disciple.”
(Ravi Shankar)

“I think it was John who really urged me to play sitar on ‘Norwegian Wood’, which was the first time we used it.”
(George Harrison)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

About the author

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

Leave a Comment