A lute (t/) is any plucked string instrument with a neck (either fretted or unfretted) and a deep round back enclosing a hollow cavity, usually with a sound hole or opening in the body. More specifically, the term "lute" can refer to an instrument from the family of European lutes. The term also refers generally to any string instrument having the strings running in a plane parallel to the sound table (in the Hornbostel–Sachs system). The strings are attached to pegs or posts at the end of the neck, which have some type of turning mechanism to enable the player to tighten the tension on the string or loosen the tension before playing (which respectively raise or lower the pitch of a string), so that each string is tuned to a specific pitch (or note). The lute is plucked or strummed with one hand while the other hand "frets" (presses down) the strings on the neck's fingerboard. By pressing the strings on different places of the fingerboard, the player can shorten or lengthen the part of the string that is vibrating, thus producing higher or lower pitches (notes).
The European lute and the modern Near-Eastern oud descend from a common ancestor via diverging evolutionary paths. The lute is used in a great variety of instrumental music from the Medieval to the late Baroque eras and was the most important instrument for secular music in the Renaissance. During the Baroque music era, the lute was used as one of the instruments which played the basso continuoaccompaniment parts. It is also an accompanying instrument in vocal works. The lute player either improvises ("realizes") a chordal accompaniment based on the figured bass part, or plays a written-out accompaniment (both music notation and tabulature ("tab") are used for lute). As a small instrument, the lute produces a relatively quiet sound. The player of a lute is called a lutenist, lutanist or lutist, and a maker of lutes (or any similar string instrument, or violin family instruments) is referred to as a luthier.
The words lute and oud possibly derive from Arabical-ʿoud (العود- literally means "the wood"). ʿOud or ʿud (simply transliteration variations) in Arabic means “wood”. Recent research by music historian Eckhard Neubauer suggests ʿud may in turn be an Arabized version of the Persian name rud, which meant "string", "stringed instrument", or "lute", although this is simply one of many theories. It has equally been suggested the "wood" in the name may have distinguished the instrument by its wooden soundboard from skin-faced predecessors.
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