• luthier •
lu-ti-êr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments.
Notes: Restrain yourself from pronouncing this word as [lu-thi-êr]. Merriam-Webster is the only respectable dictionary that accepts this pronunciation. The reason for this pronunciation will become clear in the Word History.
In Play: The meaning of today's word has strayed from the maker of lutes to include makers of all stringed instruments—and repairmen, too: "No, no, Amanda Lynn doesn't need more lessons; she just needs a good luthier to tighten up her instrument." (What instrument would you guess Amanda plays?) It still retains its sense of a creator of stringed instruments: "Luthiers have tried for ages, but not one has (yet) achieved the quality of Stradivarius."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us without implications that Martin Luther made stringed instruments, but from Old French luthier, a noun created from luth "lute". Its original meaning was restricted to lute-makers, still the only sense the Oxford English Dictionary carries. Old French borrowed the word from Old Provençal laut. It came to be in that language as a borrowing from Arabic al 'ud "the wood". This word was reanalyzed from al 'ud to laud, thence to laut by the process of metathesis. (Our gratitude is due Yim Hall, a student luthier, for today's Good Word.)
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