Definition and background:
Small, felt covered pieces of wood which rest against the piano strings in normal position. The dampers (both treble and bass) are "lifted" from the strings when a key is struck. When the key is released, the damper returns to the string, thus "dampening", or causing the string to cease vibrating.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary