Flutist/Flautist Revisited

Feb 17, 2021

Credit Mary Noble Ours

I’ve spoken about this before, but the subject seems to come up a lot, so why not go over it again: in America, 99.9 per cent of the people who play the flute for a living call themselves flutists, not flautists. That’s not a scientific number, but I think it’s pretty accurate. In any case, I’ve never heard any American flute playing colleague refer to herself as anything but a flutist, so please don’t ever worry about sounding uncultured or unsophisticated if that’s the term you use. And where does the word “flautist” come from, anyway? After all, the instrument is called the flute, not the flaut. Well, it comes from the Italian word for flute, which is flauto. “Flautist” is certainly a correct term, but it’s far more commonly heard in the British Isles – where it’s pronounced “flawtist” – than it is here. And by the way, if you’d like to wax historical, the term “fluter,” which is now archaic, was around long before either flutist or flautist. 

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.