fbpx

What is the origin of rebec?

Rebec “a Renaissance fiddle” is a borrowing by way of Middle French from Old French rebebe, with a phonetic alteration possibly because of the influence of bec “beak,” after the shape of the instrument. Rebebe derives from Arabic rabāb, the noun form of the verb rabba “to control, be master.” From the same Semitic root as rabba are the Hebrew- and Aramaic-origin terms rabbi, rabbinical, and rebbe, which all mean “master” or “my master” in their languages of origin. Despite the similarity in spelling, rebec is not related to the name Rebecca, which comes from a Semitic root meaning “to tie, join, connect.” Rebec was first recorded in English circa 1750.