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[awr-kuh-struh] /ˈɔr kə strə/
a group of performers on various musical instruments, including especially stringed instruments of the viol class, clarinets and flutes, cornets and trombones, drums, and cymbals, for playing music, as symphonies, operas, popular music, or other compositions.
  1. the space reserved for the musicians, usually the front part of the main floor (orchestra pit)
  2. the entire main-floor space for spectators.
  3. the parquet.
(in the ancient Greek theater) the circular space in front of the stage, allotted to the chorus.
(in the Roman theater) a similar space reserved for persons of distinction.
1590-1600; < Latin orchēstra < Greek orchḗstra the space on which the chorus danced, derivative of orcheîsthai to dance Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for orchestra
  • Both turned to the symphony orchestra as their central medium.
  • In addition to its inherent interest the program must reflect what the orchestra sees as its larger mission.
  • orchestra members take souvenir snapshots of the spread.
  • Indeed, some of his first dance paintings portray the audience and orchestra as prominently as the ballerinas onstage.
  • It is the first game in the series to use music recorded by an orchestra.
  • orchestra tickets have become increasingly expensive for the same reason as a university education has.
  • The three rows of marble steps near the orchestra used to be for big shots.
  • It's unfair to say that one bad drumbeat ruins the whole orchestra.
  • That's one reason an orchestra needs a conductor to keep players in sync.
  • Inside the house the florist has finished, an orchestra is playing in the hall or library, everything is in perfect order.
British Dictionary definitions for orchestra


a large group of musicians, esp one whose members play a variety of different instruments See also symphony orchestra, string orchestra, chamber orchestra
a group of musicians, each playing the same type of instrument: a balalaika orchestra
Also called orchestra pit. the space reserved for musicians in a theatre, immediately in front of or under the stage
(mainly US & Canadian) the stalls in a theatre
(in the ancient Greek theatre) the semicircular space in front of the stage
Derived Forms
orchestral (ɔːˈkɛstrəl) adjective
orchestrally, adverb
Word Origin
C17: via Latin from Greek: the space in the theatre reserved for the chorus, from orkheisthai to dance
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 orchestra

c.1600, "area in an ancient theater for the chorus," from Latin orchestra, from Greek orkhestra, semicircular space where the chorus of dancers performed, with suffix -tra denoting place + orkheisthai "to dance," intensive of erkhesthai "to go, come," from PIE *ergh- "to set in motion, stir up, raise" (cf. Sanskrit rghayati "trembles, rages, raves," rnoti "rises, moves," arnah "welling stream;" Old Persian rasatiy "he comes;" Greek ornynai "to rouse, start;" Latin oriri "to rise," origo "a beginning;" Gothic rinnan, Old English irnan "to flow, run"). In ancient Rome, it referred to the place in the theater reserved for senators and other dignitaries. Meaning "group of musicians performing at a concert, opera, etc." first recorded 1720; "part of theater in front of the stage" is from 1768.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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orchestra in Culture

orchestra definition

A group of musicians who play together on a variety of instruments, which usually come from all four instrument families — brass, percussion, strings, and woodwinds. A typical symphony orchestra is made up of more than ninety musicians. Most orchestras, unlike chamber music groups, have more than one musician playing each musical part.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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