early 15c., recordour, "chief legal officer of a city," whose duty is to register writings or transactions, from Anglo-French recordour (early 14c.), Old French recordeor "witness; storyteller; minstrel," from Medieval Latin recordator, from Latin recordari "remember" (see record (v.)). The meaning "registering apparatus" is from 1873.
"musical instrument having a long tube with seven holes and a mouthpiece," early 15c. (earlier recordys, mid-14c.), from record (v.) in an archaic sense of "quietly sing or repeat a tune, practice a tune," used mostly of birds. Darwin, writing of birds in "The Descent of Man," says, "The young males continue practising, or as the bird-catchers say, recording, for ten or eleven months."
The musical instrument was known to Shakespeare and Milton ("In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood/Of flutes and soft recorders," "Paradise Lost"), but the name, and the device, were rarely heard by mid-1800s (it is marked "obsolete" in Century Dictionary, 1895), ousted by the flute, but both enjoyed revival after 1911 as an easy-to-play instrument for musical beginners.
Seynte Aldelme diede in this tyme havynge in habite and in use instrumentes of the arte off musike, as in harpes, pipes, recordres. [Higden's "Polychronicon," 15c. translation]
updated on May 27, 2021