A harp-shaped instrument of music set horizontally on legs, like the grand piano, with strings of wire, played by the fingers, by means of keys provided with quills, instead of hammers, for striking the strings. It is now superseded by the piano.
the principal stringed keyboard instrument from the 16th to the 18th centuries and the chief instrument of the basso continuo; small harpsichords were called virginals or spinets. The harpsichord resembles a piano, but its sound is based on quills that pluck the strings rather than hammers. It was superseded by the piano in the 19th century.
A harpsichord is any of a family of European keyboard instruments, including the large instrument currently called a harpsichord, but also the smaller virginals, the muselar virginals and the spinet. All these instruments generate sound by plucking a string rather than striking one, as in a piano or clavichord. The harpsichord family is thought to have originated when a keyboard was affixed to the end of a psaltery, providing a mechanical means to pluck the strings.