harp-like instrument, c. 1200, from Old French lire "lyre" (12c.), from Latin lyra, from Greek lyra, a foreign loan-word of uncertain origin. The thing itself is said to be Egyptian, though it became the national musical instrument of ancient Greece. In 18c.-19c. especially the symbol of lyric poetry. Lyra as the name of the ancient northern constellation supposed to resemble a lyre is attested in English from 1650s; the Lyraid (1876) meteors (c. April 20) appear to radiate from there. The lyre-bird (1853) of Australia is so called from the shape of its tail. Related: Lyrate "shaped like a lyre."