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.
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
C15: from Old French viole, from Old Provençal viola; see viola1