"wooden, double-reeded wind instrument, 1724, from Italian oboe, from phonological spelling of French hautbois (itself borrowed in English 16c. as hautboy), from haut "high, loud, high-pitched" (see haught) + bois "wood" (see bush (n.)). So called because it had the highest register among woodwind instruments. Also compare shawm. Related: Oboist (by 1830). "The tone is small, but highly individual and penetrating; it is especially useful for pastoral effects, for plaintive and wailing phrases, and for giving a reedy quality to concerted passages." [Century Dictionary]
"oboe, double-reeded woodwind instrument," 1570s, from French hautbois "high wood" (15c.; see oboe, which is the Italian phonetic spelling of the French word). The haut is used here in its secondary sense of "high-pitched." In early use frequently nativized as hoboy, hawboy, etc.
This Pageaunt waz clozd vp with a delectable harmony of Hautboiz, Shalmz, Coronets, and such oother looud muzik. [Robert Laneham, 1575]
It forms all or part of: abolish; adolescent; adult; alderman; aliment; alimony; Alma; alma mater; alt (2) "high tone;" alti-; altimeter; altitude; alto; alumnus; auld; coalesce; elder (adj., n.1); eldest; Eldred; enhance; exalt; haught; haughty; hautboy; hawser; oboe; old; proletarian; proliferation; prolific; world.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek aldaino "make grow, strengthen," althein, althainein "to get well;" Latin alere "to feed, nourish, suckle; bring up, increase," altus "high," literally "grown tall," almus "nurturing, nourishing," alumnus "fosterling, step-child;" Gothic alþeis, Dutch oud, German alt "old;" Gothic alan "to grow up," Old Norse ala "to nourish;" Old Irish alim "I nourish."
first letter of the Roman alphabet, based on Greek alpha (see alpha). In music from c. 1600 as the name of the sixth note of the natural scale; it is the note given by a fixed-tone instrument (usually oboe or organ) to which all the instruments of an orchestra are tuned. As a blood type, 1926, denoting A agglutinogens. The A side of a two-sided record (by 1962, see side (n.)) held the material chosen for promotion. A-bomb, short for atom bomb, was in newspaper headlines by Aug. 8, 1945.
The Greek word is from PIE *kole-mo- "grass, reed," source also of Old English healm, Old High German halm "straw;" Latin culmus "stalk;" Old Prussian salme "straw," Latvian salms; Russian soloma. Sanskrit kalama- "writing reed," Arabic qalam are said by Beekes to have been borrowed from the Greek word.