castanets (kăsˌtənĕtsˈ) [key], percussion instruments known to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, possibly of Middle Eastern origin, now used primarily in Spanish dance music or imitations of it. There are many kinds, the most common consisting of two small matching pieces of hard wood or ivory, joined at the inner edge and used with a thin strap in the player's hand; they are snapped together between the palm and fingers. Castanets are also occasionally used in orchestral music.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on castanets from Fact Monster:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Music: Theory, Forms, and Instruments