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[kas-tuh-net] /ˌkæs təˈnɛt/
either of a pair of concave pieces of wood held in the palm of the hand and clicked together, usually to accompany dancing.
1640-50; < Spanish castañeta, equivalent to castañ(a) chestnut (< Latin castanea) + -eta diminutive suffix; see -et, -ette Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for castanets
  • He can reach inside of a bull's mouth, pull out his teeth and use them as castanets.
  • The bolero, to tinkling guitars and clattering castanets.
  • Each locomotive comes with built-in castanets, cymbals, a xylophone and a drum.
  • Tambourines, guitars, gourd rattles and castanets lend to the excitement in the air.
British Dictionary definitions for castanets


plural noun
curved pieces of hollow wood, usually held between the fingers and thumb and made to click together: used esp by Spanish dancers
Word Origin
C17 castanet, from Spanish castañeta, diminutive of castañachestnut
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for castanets



usually castanets, 1640s, from French castagnette or directly from Spanish castañeta diminutive of castaña "chestnut," from Latin castanea (see chestnut).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for castanets

percussion instrument of the clapper family, consisting of two hollowed-out pear-shaped pieces of hardwood, ivory, or other substance hinged together by a cord. Castanets are usually held in the hand and struck together. They are played in differently pitched pairs by dancers primarily in Spain, the Balearic Islands, and southern Italy. In Spain castanets may be used to accompany classical or folkloric dances. Typically, in the classical playing style, pairs of castanets are attached to each thumb; a simple rhythm is performed on the left-hand pair, while the higher-pitched right-hand pair plays a more complicated rhythm. In the folkloric playing style, they are attached to one or more fingers on each hand, both pairs are larger and lower-pitched than those used in the classical playing style, and rhythms are produced by flicking them with the wrists against the palms

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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