- a small drum consisting of a circular frame with a skin stretched over it and several pairs of metal jingles attached to the frame, played by striking with the knuckles, shaking, and the like.
- music a percussion instrument consisting of a single drumhead of skin stretched over a circular wooden frame hung with pairs of metal discs that jingle when it is struck or shaken
n.1782, in the modern sense of “parchment-covered hoop with pieces of metal attached;” earlier “a small drum” (1570s), from French tambourin “long narrow drum used in Provence,” diminutive of tambour “drum,” altered by influence of Arabic tunbur “drum” (originally “lute”) from Old French tabour (see tabor). The sense evolutions present some difficulties, and in some 17c. and early 18c. references it is difficult to say what sort of instrument is intended. Earlier names for this type of instrument were tambour de basque (1680s), also timbre and timbrel. Tambour itself is attested in English from late 15c.