• 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 "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 by the process of metathesis, thence to laut. (Our gratitude is due Yim Hall, a student luthier, for today's Good Word.)
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