- a keyboard instrument, precursor of the piano, in which the strings are plucked by leather or quill points connected with the keys, in common use from the 16th to the 18th century, and revived in the 20th.
- a horizontally strung stringed keyboard instrument, triangular in shape, consisting usually of two manuals controlling various sets of strings plucked by pivoted plectrums mounted on jacks. Some harpsichords have a pedal keyboard and stops by which the tone colour may be varied
1610s, from French harpechorde “harp string,” from Modern Latin harpichordium (cf. Italian arpicordo), from harpa (see harp (n.)) + chorda “string” (see cord). The -s- is unexplained, but it is attested in the earliest English forms.
A stringed keyboard instrument much used in the baroque era in music. The keys of a harpsichord move small devices that pluck the strings; the strings are not struck with hammers, as in a piano. Thus, although harpsichords often look much like pianos, their characteristic tinkly sound is unlike that of the piano, and a harpsichordist cannot change the volume of the sound by striking the keys harder, as a pianist can.