a small upright piano.
a small, square piano.
any of various small harpsichords.
Also called spinet organ. a small electric organ.

1655–65; aphetic variant of obsolete espinette < French < Italian spinetta, probably equivalent to spin(a) thorn (see spine) + -etta diminutive suffix; the existence of an instrument-maker named Spinetti is unverified

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World English Dictionary
spinet (spɪˈnɛt, ˈspɪnɪt)
a small type of harpsichord having one manual
[C17: from Italian spinetta, perhaps from Giovanni Spinetti, 16th-century Italian maker of musical instruments and its supposed inventor]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1664, spinette, "small harpsichord," from older Fr. espinette (1522), from It. spinetta, said by Scaliger to be a dim. of spina "thorn, spine," from L. spina "thorn" (see spine), so called because the strings were plucked with thorn-like quills. The other theory (favored by
OED) dates to early 17c. and claims the word is an allusion to the name of the Venetian inventor, Giovanni Spinetti (fl. c.1503).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


small form of the harpsichord, generally wing-shaped, with a single set of strings placed at an oblique angle to the keyboard. The wing-shaped spinet may have originated in Italy during the 16th century; later it became known in France and England.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
They had been known in a pinch to make do with her priceless spinet or to use her fragile étagère as a sort of shooting stick.
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