cittern (sĭtˈərn) [key], stringed musical instrument of the guitar family having an oval body, a flat back, and a fretted neck. Its strings, made of wire and varying in number, were plucked. It was first made in the Middle Ages and at that time was usually called citole or sitole. The name cittern was given it in the 16th cent. in England, where, as in all western Europe, it was very popular until the early part of the 18th cent. It has also been called cister, cistre, cithern, cithren, citharen, cetera, cither, cithara, gittern, and sittron.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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