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1. Any of a family of stringed instruments, chiefly of the 1500s and 1600s, having a fretted fingerboard, usually six strings, and a flat back and played with a curved bow.
2. See viola da gamba.
[Alteration of Middle English viel, from Old French viole, vielle, from Old Provençal viola; see viola1.]
(Instruments) 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]
a bowed musical instrument, differing from the violin in having deeper ribs, sloping shoulders, a greater number of strings, usu. six, and frets: common in the 16th and 17th centuries in various sizes from the treble viol to the bass viol.
[1475–85; < Middle French viole (akin to Old French viel(l)e> earlier E viele) < Old Provençal viola, derivative of violar to play the viol or a similar instrument (perhaps imitative)]
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|Noun||1.||viol - any of a family of bowed stringed instruments that preceded the violin family|
bowed stringed instrument, string - stringed instruments that are played with a bow; "the strings played superlatively well"
viola da braccio - a member of the viol family with approximately the range of a viola
bass viol, gamba, viola da gamba - viol that is the bass member of the viol family with approximately the range of the cello
viola d'amore - viol that is the tenor of the viol family