• crwth •
Pronunciation: kruth • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The Welsh lyre, a stringed instrument comprising an oblong wooden frame with six strings across a bridge. Four strings are played with a bow while the other two are picked as a kind of bass drone.
Notes: The crwth is related closely to the zither, psaltery and dulcimer. It's a cousin to the harp. In some versions of musical history, the crwth is the forerunner of the violin. The word is a lexical orphan, probably because it is a Welsh word used marginally in English. The English word for the crwth is crowd. It turns up in English surnames as Crowder and Crowther, both of which originally meant "fiddler" on the crwth.
In Play: The crwth fell out of favor after the Middle Ages. However, you might spot one here and there: "Abelard earned $60 with his homemade crwth at the Renaissance Music Festival." Crwth is also the name of the Arts Council of Wales: "When Katrin Crowther was an archivist at Crwth, she absconded with a considerable amount of rare sheet music."
Word History: Today's Good Word is Welsh crwth "bulge". Many take today's word as the only word in English with no vowels; however, this is a Welsh word and in Welsh (Cymraeg) W acts as the vowel U between consonants—its name is, after all, "double u". The name of this letter goes back to the days when U was written V. The noisy Proto-Indo-European root of today's word is ger- "to cry hoarsely". It produced in English crow (both the bird and the boast), croon, and cur. The last word is the Middle English word for "mutt", akin to Old Norse kurra "to growl". (We sing the praises of George Crawford of Knoxville, Tennessee, for bringing us today's word.)