Definition and background:
A percussion instrument consisting of a shallow wooden ring across which often is stretched a membrane. In the wooden ring are suspended several metal disks which jingle when the instrument is struck. a small single-headed hand-drum with jingles in its wooden frame. it is an instrument of some antiquity, but first found an occasional place in the symphony orchestra only in the 19th century, when it came to be used for exotic effects, as in the capriccio Espanola and Sheherazade of Rimsky-Korsakov, where it gives a touch of the Spanish and the Middle Eastern respectively.
A thin disc with metal discs attached, the tambourine is a popular percussion instrument played with the hand against the palm used to enhance and color music.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary