The guitar as an instrument, as well as the name 'guitar' are ultimately derived from the Ancient Greek
'Kitarra,' which was a sort of lyre
. This word eventually passed into Arabic
as 'Quitar' and likely described a range of stringed instrument
s such as ude
s. In the middle ages
, the people of the Iberia
n Peninsula adopted this word from their Moor
ish rulers, and it was applied to the stringed instrument being developed and played by the local gypsies
and others. The word became 'guitarra' in Spanish
and the English word 'guitar' is a borrowing from that. So we have the rather unique situation of an English word being descended from Ancient Greek
but not through Latin
era scientific borrowing, but through Arabic.
However the acoustic guitar as we know it today did not assume its present form in terms of appearance, sound, and tuning until possibly as late as the 19th century. This is an amazingly recent pedigree for an instrument that has so dominated and defined many of the popular forms of music worldwide in the past 50 years.