The word guitar was first used in a 1637 translation of Horace's Art of Poetry. Obviously, there were no modern-day guitars in classical Rome; at the time, the word probably referred to a lute, or was just a fanciful translation. Guitar comes from Spanish guitarra, which reflects the instrument's origin in fifteenth-century Iberia. Before that, it might come from Arabic qitara, but it definitely (either directly or indirectly) derives from Latin cithara, which described a lyre-like instrument used primarily in Ancient Greece (this also gave us the word zither). In the original Greek, that was kithara, and it's probably Proto-Indo-European because of a cognate with sihtar, the Persian etymon of the word sitar. The portmanteau keytar is from 1979 and the rare verb to guitar was first used in 1816.
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.