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The Guitar: where does it come from?

Let’s look at guitars from a different perspective. If you’re interested in languages or history, or both – this article is for you.

The word guitar entered the English language at the start of the 17th century and it came from the French word guitare. At that time the common understanding of this instrument was very different from what we would think now. Guitar was basically just a lute-like instrument.

But do not be fooled by the 17th century, because the concept of guitar is much much older than that. Actually, the modern word guitar, and its antecedents, has been applied to a wide variety of chordophones since classical times and as such causes confusion. The English word guitar, the German Gitarre, and the French guitare were all adopted from the Spanish guitarra, which comes from the Andalusian Arabic قيثارة (qīthārah) and the Latin cithara, which in turn came from the Ancient Greek κιθάρα (kithara).

Many influences are cited as antecedents to the modern guitar. Although the development of the earliest guitars is lost in the history of medieval Spain, two instruments are commonly cited as their most influential predecessors, the European lute and its cousin, the four-string oud; the latter was brought to Iberia by the Moors in the 8th century.

Isn‘t it wonderful how the instrument that so many people play today, the instrument that is widely considered to be one of the most iconic ones, has roots that trace back to early Medieval times!

And this last section is for enthusiasts of linguistics. This is how you can say guitar in different languages:

  1. Latin – cithara

  2. Spanish – guitarra

  3. French – guitare

  4. Italian – chitarra

  5. Finnish – kitara

  6. Swedish – gitarr

  7. Norwegian – gitar

  8. Russian – гитара (gitara)

  9. Portuguese – violão

  10. German – Gitarre

  11. Polish – gitara

  12. Hungarian – gitár

  13. Turkish – gitar

  14. Maltese – kitarra

  15. Greek – κιθάρα (kithára)

  16. Czech – kytara

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