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1782, in the modern sense of "parchment-covered hoop with pieces of metal attached;" earlier "a small drum" (1570s), from French tambourin "long narrow drum used in Provence," diminutive of tambour "drum," altered by influence of Arabic tunbur "drum" (originally "lute") from Old French tabour (see tabor).
The sense evolutions present some difficulties, and in some 17c. and early 18c. references it is difficult to say what sort of instrument is intended. Earlier names for this type of instrument were tambour de basque (1680s), also timbre and timbrel. Tambour itself is attested in English from late 15c.
small frame drum (one whose shell is too narrow to resonate the sound) having one or two skins nailed or glued to a shallow circular or polygonal frame. The tambourine is normally played with the bare hands and often has attached to it jingles, pellet bells, or snares. European tambourines typically have one skin and jingling disks set into the sides of the frame. The designation tambourine refers specifically to the European frame drum; however, the term is often extended to include all related frame drums, such as those of the Arabic countries, and sometimes those probably unrelated, such as the shaman's drums of Central Asia, North America, and the Arctic.