orchestra

Definitions

General English

Theater

  • In the ancient Greek theater, the circular or semicirculararea where the chorus chanted and danced. It was positionedbetween the audience and the raised stage used by the principals.The word is derived from the Greek orcheesthai meaning 'todance'.

    The orchestra was one of the most ancient features of theGreek theater. In the 6th century BC a dancing place waslaid out around the thymele or altar in the Theatre of Dionysus,Athens. A raised wooden stage was added about a century later, thisbeing connected to the orchestra by steps or ramps. Some scholarsbelieve that orchestras were rectangular until the 4th century, althoughthe theater at Epidaurus, built in about 350 BC, has a well-preservedcircular orchestra with a diameter of about 66 feet.

Origin & History of “orchestra”

In ancient Greece, the term orkhḗstrā denoted a ‘semicircular space at the front of a theatre stage, in which the chorus danced’ (it was a derivative of the verb orkheisthai ‘dance’). English originally took it over (via Latin orchēstra) in this historical sense, but in the early 18th century orchestra began to be used for the ‘part of a theatre where the musicians played’, and hence by extension for the ‘group of musicians’ itself. The derivative orchestrate (19th c.) was adapted from French orchestrer.
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