Saturday, 16 January 2010


Okay, yes, I like the sound of this word, but also I've picked this because I'm confused as to how it could possibly mean both of the things it claims to mean. (I blame having to use a Chambers Student Dictionary from the '80s at my parents' house.)

sackbut n an early form of the trombone: a stringed instrument resembling the guitar. [Origin from French saquebute] Chambers Student Dictionary, 1980

A trombone AND a guitar? Why, that sounds like the best instrument in the world!

Google translate is useless and I don't have a French dictionary to hand. Anyone know what "saquebute" means in French these days?


  1. It still translates as sackbut from French. You can see the French wikipedia article on the subject here: (if you search for Sacqueboute in Google you can get to the automated translation, but even just glancing at the pictures shows something very similar to a trombone).

  2. My pleasure! I still can't figure out where the guitar figures in, though. It doesn't make any sense given the history of the word; if you break it down into components, you get sacquer (to push) and bouter (to pull). Perfectly reasonable, if a little literal, to call a trombone a "push-pull". But why would you use that for a guitar? It doesn't help that I can't find any other references that indicate it had anything to do with guitar past being played in ensembles where guitars were also played. I'm almost starting to wonder if this is akin to the deliberate errors sometimes placed in maps so that a company can be sure if someone directly copies their product.

    Musica Antiqua does have some very nice close-up photographs of one along with some sound files of one being played.