early 14c., from Old French flaut, flaute (musical) "flute" (12c.), from Old Provençal flaut, which is of uncertain origin; perhaps imitative or from Latin flare "to blow" (from PIE root *bhle- "to blow"); perhaps influenced by Provençal laut "lute." The other Germanic words (such as German flöte) are likewise borrowings from French.
Ancient flutes were direct, blown straight through a mouthpiece but held away from the player's mouth; the modern transverse or German flute developed 18c. The older style then sometimes were called flûte-a-bec (French, literally "flute with a beak"). The modern design and key system of the concert flute were perfected 1834 by Theobald Boehm. The architectural sense of "furrow in a pillar" (1650s) is from fancied resemblance to the inside of a flute split down the middle. Meaning "tall, slender wine glass" is from 1640s.
late 14c., "to play upon the flute," from flute (n.). Meaning "to make (architectural) flutes" is from 1570s. Related: Fluted; fluting.
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