Word of the Month: Luthier and Oud

David Zapatka

At a recent Weird Music concert at Stillwell Pianos in Mesa, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a traveling Belgian-Italian guitar duet playing the music of Gurdjieff collaboratively written with Gurdjieff’s musically gifted pupil, Thomas de Hartmann. I have had an appreciation for Gurdjieff’s philosophies since I began reading him in the early ‘70s but had little knowledge of his musical genius and excellent memory for music he heard all over Europe, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East. The performers had beautifully hand-crafted guitars. They talked about the luthier they worked with to get just the right sound. This reminded me of guitarist, Andy Hackbarth, on a recent Oceania cruise speaking about the guitar he purchased from a luthier. This word, coming up twice this year, told me it was an excellent candidate for the word of the month.

Luthier noun lu·thi·er ˈlü-tē-ər, -thē-ər one who makes stringed musical instruments (such as violins or guitars)

First Known Use—1879

Origin and Etymology—French, from luth lute (from Middle French lut)

Luthier used in a sentence and in the news:

However, a great luthier can make most any wood sound incredible.—Smithsonian Magazine, 24 May 2022

The luthier suggested his own veneering technique, involving a spray-on liquid that stabilizes the wood from cracking under severe heat.—Steve Knopper, Billboard, 22 April 2022

Isn’t it funny how a word will trip your mind into a train of related thought? At a recent Veteran’s Oasis Park outdoor concert, I was treated to the music of the band Traveler where the lead guitarist played an instrument that had a beautiful, melodious sound. It was a gorgeous instrument, 1/2 gourd-like shaped with a short neck and played like a guitar.

He explained the instrument was of Arab origin and called an oud. It’s considered to be “the king of instruments.” The name al-oud is believed to be derived from Arabic for “the wood” and came to Europe through North Africa. In this part of the world, the oud is considered to be the oldest musical instrument. It’s believed that it is the ancestor of the Pharaonic Egyptian Nefer and is the forebear of the ancient Persian barbat. Besides this, oud is also known as the ancestor of the European lute.

Oud noun ˈüd a musical instrument of the lute family used in southwest Asia and northern Africa  

First Known Use—1738

Origin and Etymology—Arabic ūd, literally, wood

Oud used in a sentence and in the news:

Chopard is introducing women that may not be familiar with oud and Sandalwood to new notes and elements.—Allyson Portee, Forbes, 8 June 2022

With key notes of sandalwood, Chinese pepper and oud wood, this cologne will give any guy a scent that’s absolutely swoonworthy.—Annie O’sullivan, Good Housekeeping, 15 April 2022

Two for one this month! Please submit any word you may like to share, along with your insights and comments, to [email protected]