- A keyboard instrument resembling an organ but with the notes produced by steam whistles, used chiefly on showboats and in traveling fairs.
“I found a mint-condition calliope at the flea market, but I don’t know what I would do with such a big instrument.”
“We played a record of calliope music at the fundraiser to add to the festive atmosphere.”
“The church has a calliope in the basement, but no one knows how to play it.”
Greek, mid-19th century
Why this word?
Calliope (Kalliopē in Greek) was one of the nine Muses in Greek mythology — she was the Muse of epic poetry and the mother of Orpheus, who had legendary musical skills. The name “Calliope” means “having a beautiful voice,” which was the inspiration for the musical instrument created by 19th-century inventors A.S. Denny and Joshua C. Stoddard. Their calliope resembles an organ but produces blasting whistle tones, appropriate for usage on showboats and at traveling fairs.
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