"medieval oboe-like instrument," mid-14c., schalmeis (plural), also schallemele (late 14c.), from Old French chalemie, chalemel, from Late Latin calamellus, literally "a small reed," diminutive of Latin calamus "reed," from Greek kalamos "reed, grass-stalk," often metaphoric of objects made of reed ("flute of reed, fishing rod, reed pen," etc.). Mistaken as a plural and trimmed of its "-s" ending from mid-15c. Related: Shawmist.
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.
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