Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Clar”i*net`\, n. [F. clarinette, dim. of clarine, from L. clarus. See Clear, and cf. Clarion.] (Mus.) A wind instrument, blown by a single reed, of richer and fuller tone than the oboe, which has a double reed. It is the leading instrument in a military band.

Note: [Often improperly called clarionet.]

Say … WHAT?!

My feelings are hurt. Besides, this simply isn’t true. “Richer and fuller” my foot! ;-)

I read it here.


  1. Obviously this is a poor/weird definition for a number of reasons–but I believe you are quoting from the 1913 edition. The current Webster’s definition is much more precise and unbiased:
    “A single-reed woodwind instrument having a cylindrical tube with a moderately flared bell and a usual range from D below middle C upward for 31?2 octaves.”

    (That definition assumes a clarinet in the key of B-flat.)

    If we must compare sounds of instruments, I think it might be possible to make an argument for clarinet being “fuller,” since I find it to have a louder forte than the oboe. But the oboe’s sound is definitely “richer”–much more complex spectrum of overtones.

  2. Lessee…my Dad played clarinet (I’ve still got his Conn clarinet – he wanted a Selmer, but there was some kind of thing going on overseas at the time, so he ended up with a US-made instrument). Cost him around $200, IIRC.

    Anyhow, whoever wrote that seems a wee bit partisan. I won’t go on about “richer and fuller” (note which instrument I chose to take up) but I certainly would say that “leading instrument in a military band” is at best dated and at worst simply ridiculous.

    I still remember (and shudder over) the times I would get to work (relatively early – around 5:30am) and they would be testing the sound system with ever-so-slightly-under-the-pitch clarinet music played at very high volume (and with massive vibrato). I had to go outside before my head exploded – at one point I called my supervisor, leaving a voice-mail, so he could hear how loud it was…

  3. Heh … well, I know I can easily cover a clarinet forté with the right reed! ;-)

    I was just having fun … this wasn’t a serious post. I’m silly that way.

  4. That definition was funny. As well as your mock outrage.

  5. I think I’m simply at my best when I am in mockmode. I think that’s where, in fact, I should live. Forever.

    Yes. Indeed. ;-)

    Thanks, SongMonk!