tambourine (n.) 1782, in the modern sense of "parchment-covered hoop with pieces of metal attached;" earlier "a small drum" (1570s), from Fr. tambourin "long narrow drum used in Provence," dim. of tambour "drum," altered by influence of Arabic tunbur "drum" (originally "lute") from O.Fr. tabour (see TABOR (Cf. tabor)).
The sense evolutions present some difficulties, and in some 17c. and early 18c. references it is difficult to say what sort of instrument is intended. Earlier names for this type of instrument were tambour de basque (1680s), also timbre and timbrel. Tambour itself is attested in English from late 15c.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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