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Definition: A medieval wind instrument played in a similar fashion to a trombone.

Pronunciation: Sak-butt


The sackbut entered the English language around the year 1500, from the French ‘saquebute’, a trumpet played in a similar fashion to a trombone.

Indeed, it is thought that the telescoping slide mechanism used to play it gave it its name, looking perhaps similar to the 14th century French weapon the ‘saqueboute’ – a “lance with a mounted hook used for pulling down mounted men”.

Why this word?

Lets re-cap so that you don’t forget what we’ve learned thus far: the ‘sackbut’ gets its name from a tool used to pull down mounted men.

Early spellings of the instrument include the rather fantastical ‘sagbutt’ and ‘shagbush’ – nouns no longer directly associated with classical music.

As a writer of humour, I’m going to be honest: I chose ‘sackbut’ because it’s funny.

How to use the word sackbut in a sentence?

I cannot think of a single sober instance where use of this word or any of its evolutionary spellings and forms is appropriate. Unless you’re an archaic-musicologist, steer clear of this one. There is a reason why you’ll never meet someone who is the ‘first sackbut player of the New York Philharmonic’.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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