stringed musical instrument, late 13c., from Old French lut, leut (Modern French luth), from Old Provençal laut, a misdivision of Arabic al-'ud, the Arabian lute, literally "the wood" (source of Medieval Latin lutana, Spanish laud, Portuguese alaude, Italian liuto), where al is the definite article.
Dutch luit, German Laute, Danish luth are from Romanic. A player is a luter (Middle English), a lutist (1620s) or a lutanist (c. 1600, from Medieval Latin lutanista).
fourteenth letter of the English alphabet; in chemistry, the symbol for nitrogen.
In late Middle English a and an commonly were joined to the following noun, if that word began with a vowel, which caused confusion over how such words ought to be divided when written separately. In nickname, newt, and British dialectal naunt, the -n- belongs to a preceding indefinite article an or possessive pronoun mine.
Other examples of this from Middle English manuscripts include a neilond ("an island," early 13c.), a narawe ("an arrow," c. 1400), a nox ("an ox," c. 1400), a noke ("an oak," early 15c.), a nappyle ("an apple," early 15c.), a negge ("an egg," 15c.), a nynche ("an inch," c. 1400), a nostryche ("an ostrich," c. 1500). My naunt for mine aunt is recorded from 13c.-17c. None other could be no noder (mid-15c.). My nown (for mine own) was frequent 15c.-18c. In 16c., an idiot sometimes became a nidiot (1530s), which, with still-common casual pronunciation, became nidget (1570s), now, alas, no longer whinnying with us.
It is "of constant recurrence" in the 15c. vocabularies, according to Thomas Wright, their modern editor. One has, among many others, Hoc alphabetum ... a nabse, from misdivision of an ABC (and pronouncing it as a word), and Hic culus ... a ners. Also compare nonce, pigsney. Even in 19c. provincial English and U.S., noration (from an oration) was "a speech; a rumor."
The process also worked in surnames, from oblique cases of Old English at "by, near," as in Nock/Nokes/Noaks from atten Oke "by the oak;" Nye from atten ye "near the lowland;" and see Nashville. (Elision of the vowel of the definite article also took place and was standard in Chancery English of the 15c.: þarchebisshop for "the archbishop," thorient for "the orient.")
But it is more common for an English word to lose an -n- to a preceding a: apron, auger, adder, umpire, humble pie, etc. By a related error in Elizabethan English, natomy or atomy was common for anatomy, noyance (annoyance) and noying (adj.) turn up 14c.-17c., and Marlowe (1590) has Natolian for Anatolian. The tendency is not limited to English: compare Luxor, jade (n.1), lute, omelet, and Modern Greek mera for hēmera, the first syllable being confused with the article.
The mathematical use of n for "an indefinite number" is attested by 1717 in phrases such as to the nth power (see nth). In Middle English n. was written in form documents to indicate an unspecified name of a person to be supplied by the speaker or reader.
"droning instrument played with a crank," 1749, perhaps imitative of the sound of the instrument and influenced by c. 1500 hirdy-girdy "uproar, confusion." Originally a type of drone-lute played by turning a wheel.
"lute-like musical instrument with four to six single or double metallic strings stretched over an almond-shaped body and fretted neck," 1707, from French mandoline, from Italian mandolino, diminutive of mandola, a larger kind of mandolin, altered from Late Latin pandura "three-stringed lute," from Greek pandoura, a three-stringed musical instrument, which is of unknown origin but probably foreign. Beekes compares Armenian p'andir, Georgian panturi. "The tone is tinkling, but penetrating and agreeable" [Century Dictionary]. Related: Mandolinist.
"muddy, covered with clay," from Latin lutosus, from lutum "mud, dirt, mire, clay," from Proto-Italic *luto-, *lustro-, from PIE *l(h)u-to- "dirt," *l(h)u-(s)tro- "dirty place," from root *leu- "dirt; make dirty" (cognates: Greek lythron "gore, clotted blood," lyma "dirty water; moral filth, disgrace," lymax "rubbish, refuse," lyme "maltreatment, damage;" Latin lues "filth;" Old Irish loth "mud, dirt;" Welsh lludedic "muddy, slimy; Albanian lum "slime, mud;" Lithuanian liūtynas "loam pit").
Hence also English lute (n.) as a type of tenacious clay or cement used to stop holes, seal joints, etc. (c. 1400), from Old French lut or Medieval Latin lutum, from the Latin noun. Lute also was a verb in English.
type of musical notation for lute or stringed instrument, 1570s, from French tablature (1550s), from Italian tavolatura (also Medieval Latin tabulatura), from Late Latin tabulare, from Latin tabula "table, list, schedule" (see table (n.)). "It differed from the more general staff-notation in that it aimed to express not so much the pitch of the notes intended as the mechanical process by which on the particular instrument those tones were to be produced" [Century Dictionary].
a name of pointed instruments of various kinds, and also other noun senses, in most cases from pick (v.) but in some perhaps with some influence of pick (n.1). Meaning "a blow with a pointed instrument" is from mid-15c; the sense in toothpick is from late 15c. The meaning "plectrum for a guitar, lute, etc." is from 1895. As a type of basketball block, from 1951. The meaning "right of selection, first choice" is by 1772, hence "choicest part or example" (by 1858). Meaning "instrument for picking locks" is by 1890.