Timpanum, timpani, tympanum, tympani

People familiar with music terms use timpanum for a single kettledrum, and timpani (the Latin plural of timpanum) for multiple drums. For all senses of the word unrelated to music (mainly in biology, zoology, and architecture), tympanum and tympani are the preferred spellings.

Anyone not comfortable with these Latin-derived terms might understandably use English plural forms instead of the traditional Latin ones. Timpani, for instance, often appears in reference to a single drum, but musically inclined readers might see it as incorrect.

3 thoughts on “Timpanum, timpani, tympanum, tympani”

  1. Tympanum is a Latin noun of the neuter second declension. It is tympanum (nominative singular), tympani (genitive singular) (neuter) meaning tambourine. I’m having trouble seeing how you can state “timpani (the Latin plural of timpanum)” when in Latin the plural would be “timpana” (if you change the “y” to “i”), since a neuter noun of -um goes to -a to become plural.
    N.b. All this is regardless to the “i” v. “y” debate.

  2. Why was my comment deleted? I honestly put a lot of research and work into that comment and now it was deleted, I am assuming, by a moderator…


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