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medieval stringed musical instrument, early 15c., from Middle French rebec (15c.), an unexplained alteration (perhaps somehow influenced by bec "beak") of Old French ribabe (13c.), ultimately from Arabic rebab. Cf. Old Provençal rebec, Italian ribeca. It has three strings and is played with a bow.
bowed, stringed musical instrument of European medieval and early Renaissance music. It was originally called a rubebe, developed about the 11th century from the similar Arab rabab, and was carried to Spain with Muslim culture. Like the rabab, the rebec had a shallow, pear-shaped body, but on the rebec the rabab's skin belly was replaced by wood and a fingerboard was added. The rebec was held against the chest or chin or, occasionally, with the bottom of the instrument resting on the seated player's left thigh. The three strings were tuned in fifths (e.g., g-d'-a').