I’ve a question that maybe one of you can answer. I’ve already sent this in to the great and powerful Cecil, but I got back an e-mail saying he gets SO many questions each week that I could get the answer I need here much sooner…

It came to me while my hubby and I were watching the Cleveland Orchestra give yet another free, kick-ass concert in Public Square. The crowd went nutso for a flute duet during the final number, and that got me wondering why those who play the flute are sometimes called - and I’m sure I’m spelling this wrong - a “flautist.” Sounds more like a term for too much gas in the lower GIs. Why isn’t the instrument called a “flaut” if the person playing it is a “flautist,” or a “flutist” if they’re playing a “flute.” What’s the deal here?


This probably won’t help explain the whole “flautist” thing, but when I played the flute, my instructor refered to me as a “flutist.” Maybe “flautists” actually have to have some inkling of talent…? :smiley:

Another flutist checking in here.

I have been informed that the term ‘flautist’ refers to a specific old-fashioned sort of flute-playing. I don’t know how true this is, but the term is pretty old-fashioned itself. I, as well as many other flute players I know, generally say ‘flutist.’

I’m also a fellow flutist (flautist, whatever.) “Flaut” comes from European languages: Italian flauto, originally from Old French, flaute. Since Italian is used so much in music notation, I guess some flute players chose to use the Italian name of their instrument. I can’t think of any other instrumentalists that do this.

So is the flauta I ate Thursday night at my favorite Mexican restaurant so named because it is rolled up in sort of a flute shape?

from dictionary.com:

flau·ta (floutä)

A tortilla rolled around a filling such as beef, chicken, or cheese into a flutelike shape and sometimes deep-fried.

and regarding the OP:


and at the national flute association website, i see the word flutist appear, but not flautist.


Perhaps “flautist” is archaic and used in formal contexts, like “pianoforte” and “violoncello”.

I call myself a “flute player” just to avoid this sort of crap.

Beverly Sills made a big point about this in an interview with Charlie Rose, correcting him twice, but then refused to provide the distinction.

Matt is completely correct. People tend to use flautist when they are being snooty. My ex played the flute (and the tuba) and referred to himself as a flautist.


Doesn’t it depend on what kind of flute he played? One made of metal or…

Thank you all for responding! I wondered whether “flute”-vs. -“flaut” was meerly a matter of word choice (like “bag” vs. “sack” vs. “poke”) or if it was more significant than that. Thanks again!


Padeye, nope. The other flutists I knew in college called themselves flautists among eachother and flutists to all the rest of the laypeople. It was like their own secret society.


Sheesh. Apparently juvenile sexual remarks can’t be too subtle around this place. I was referring to a skin flute (flaut?) Sqrl. :rolleyes: