Definition and background:
Early stringed keyboard instrument that produced tones by means of plucking strings with quills rather than by striking them with hammers, as in the modern piano. The range of the harpsichord is generally about four octaves; it was most popular in the Renaissance and Baroque eras, in the classical era it was eclipsed by the piano.Also [Eng.] harpsichord; [Fr.] clavecin or [Fr.] clave'in or [Fr.] clavessin; [Ger.] Cembalo or [Ger.] Kielfl'gel or [Ger.] Clavicimbel; [It.] clavicembalo or [It.] cembalo or [It.] cimbalo; [Sp.] clavic'mbalo or [Sp.] clavec'n. keyboard instrument in which each key activates a plectrum that plucks, rather than hammers the strings
A plucked-string keyboard musical instrument. The strings are made to vibrate by being plucked by plectra, or picks, or raven's quill or leather.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary