/lear"euh/; It. /lee"rddah/, n., pl. lire /lear"ay/; It. /lee"rdde/, liras.
1. a coin and monetary unit of Italy, equal to 100 centesimi. Abbr.: L., Lit.
2. a silver, bronze, or chrome steel coin and monetary unit of Turkey, equal to 100 kurus; equal to 100 piasters before 1933; Turkish pound. Abbr.: TL.
[1610-20; < It < OPr lieura < L libra pound]

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      the former monetary unit of Italy and the currency of modern Turkey and Malta.

      The lira was introduced in Europe by Charlemagne (c. 742–814), who based it on the pound (Latin: libra) of silver. No lira coins were struck during the Middle Ages, and the lira remained strictly a money of account. By the 16th century several of the Italian states actually struck lira coins, but they varied considerably in weight. One of the states that used the lira was the kingdom of Sardinia, and this monetary unit was adopted in all of Italy when it became unified under Sardinian leadership. In 1862 the Italian lira (plural: lire), which up to then had been divided into 20 solidi, was redefined, and the decimal system was introduced, with 1 lira equal to 100 centesimi. In 2002 the lira ceased to be legal tender in Italy after the euro, the European Union's monetary unit, became the country's sole currency.

      The Ottoman Empire adopted the Ottoman lira in 1881, when it replaced the piastre (“piece of eight”). The Turkish lira replaced the Ottoman lira in 1927. The Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey has the exclusive authority to issue banknotes and coins. The Turkish lira is divisible into 100 kurush. In 2005 a new Turkish lira was introduced at a rate equivalent to 1,000,000 old Turkish liras. Banknotes are issued in denominations ranging from 1 to 100 new liras. The obverse of each banknote contains an image of Kemal Atatürk (Atatürk, Kemal), the founder of modern Turkey and its first president (1923–38). Coins range in value from 1 kurush to 1 new lira.

      The lira also is the monetary unit of Malta, where it is divided into 100 cents. The Central Bank of Malta has exclusive authority for issuing the Maltese lira (plural: liri), which was adopted as the country's official currency (replacing British currency) in 1972; the Maltese pound was renamed lira in 1983.

      in music, a pear-shaped bowed instrument with three to five strings. Closely related to the medieval rebec and, like the rebec, a precursor of the medieval fiddle, the lira survives essentially unchanged in several Balkan folk instruments, among them the Bulgarian gadulka, the Aegean lira, and the Balkan Slavic gusla. Its tuning and range vary.

      The word lira, a misapplication of lyra, the ancient Greek lyre played with a plectrum, had appeared by the 9th century for the Byzantine form of the Arab rabāb, the ancestor of all European bowed instruments. The Byzantine lira spread westward through Europe, where its precise evolution is unclear; writers in the 11th and 12th centuries often used the words fiddle and lira interchangeably. Unlike the rabāb and rebec but like the medieval fiddle, the lira has rear tuning pegs set in a flat peg disk. The lira, or lira da braccio, an Italian predecessor of the violin, was a 15th-century fiddle with three to five melody strings plus two off-the-fingerboard drone strings. Its bass version was the lira da gamba, or lirone.

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Universalium. 2010.

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