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I stumbled onto the word 'vinola' or 'vinnola' and the allegedly related 'vinnus' in treatises on medieval chant. I don't see these words in Wiktionary or any online dictionaries. Does anybody know the meaning, etymology, and history of this word?

Its provenance spans at least the entirety of the Early Middle Ages. I have seen it used in two ways so far, both as an adjective describing a "voice":

  1. According to Joseph Dyer's The Voice in the Middle Ages, St. Isidore of Seville includes it in his Etymologies, early seventh century, among a number of good and bad "voices" (vocal styles?) in music:

    An ingratiating [vinola] voice is soft and flexible, and it receives its name from vinnus, that is, a softly shaped curl. (p. 167, link here)

    Vinola est vox mollis atque flexibilis. Et vinnola dicta a vinno, hoc est cincinno molliter flexo. (p. 255, link here)

  2. According to Joseph Perry Ponte III's 1961 Aureliani Reomensis, Musica Disciplina: A Revised Text, Volume 1, the chant theorist Aurelian of Rêome, circa 850, employs it as a term for a kind of musical ornament:

    'vinnola flexibilisque vox' = quilisma; a repeated note (p. 1)

    Vinnola and tremula according to Adhémar de Chabannes [early eleventh century] are synonyms. (p. 3)

Whether Isidore is also talking about 'vinnola' ornamental music notes is another question, since the word 'vox' is known to have a second meaning of 'musical note' in certain contexts. In any case, if I can learn what the word 'vinnola' or 'vinnus' itself means and where it came from, then I can make sense of exactly what feature of music this word is describing.

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The classical Latin word is vinnulus “delightful, sweet”. vinnolus is a misspelling. This is perhaps of interest, especially the footnote:

  1. vinnulus means delightful, tender, ingratiating: vinnus is unattested

(III.20.13, "Harmonics", Isidore of Seville's Etymologies, translated from the Latin by Priscilla Throop, Volume One.)

  • Superb! Funny how one letter difference can so drastically affect one's web searches. Your link to that translation of Isidore gives "delightful, tender, ingratiating". I wonder if "vinnus" is perhaps a misunderstanding of "Venus", the alleged origin of "vinnulus". In any case, "soft, tender, delicate" fits in line with my musical reading of the term. If Isidore means a vocal style, the general idea is obvious. If he means a musical ornament like Aurelian and Adhemar, namely a grace note or acciaccatura, then the correctly-spelled word "vinnula" makes perfect sense here. – Coemgenus Dec 27 '17 at 0:36

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