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[vahy-uh l] /ˈvaɪ əl/
a bowed musical instrument, differing from the violin in having deeper ribs, sloping shoulders, a greater number of strings, usually six, and frets: common in the 16th and 17th centuries in various sizes from the treble viol to the bass viol.
Origin of viol
1475-85; < Middle French viole (akin to Old French viel(l)e > earlier English viele) < Old Provençal viola, derivative of violar to play the viola1 (perhaps imitative)
Can be confused
vial, vile, viol. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for viol
  • In the old days, idle fellows gathered in barbershops to exchange the latest news, and lute and viol were played.
British Dictionary definitions for viol


any of a family of stringed musical instruments that preceded the violin family, consisting of a fretted fingerboard, a body rather like that of a violin but having a flat back and six strings, played with a curved bow. They are held between the knees when played and have a quiet yet penetrating tone; they were much played, esp in consorts, in the 16th and 17th centuries
Word Origin
C15: from Old French viole, from Old Provençal viola; see viola1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for viol

musical instrument, late 15c., viel, from Middle French viole, from Old French, from Old Provençal viola (see viola).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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viol in the Bible

Heb. nebel (Isa. 5:12, R.V., "lute;" 14:11), a musical instrument, usually rendered "psaltery" (q.v.)

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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