A mandolin (Italian: mandolino) is a musical instrument in the lute family (plucked, or strummed). It descends from the mandore, a soprano member of the lute family. The mandolin soundboard (the top) comes in many shapes—but generally round or teardrop-shaped, sometimes with scrolls or other projections. A mandolin may have f-holes, or a single round or oval sound hole. A round or oval sound hole may be bordered with decorative rosettes or purfling.
Early mandolins had six double courses of gut strings, tuned similarly to lutes, and plucked with the fingertips. Modern mandolins—which originated in Naples, Italy in the late 18th century—commonly have four double courses (four pairs) of metal strings, which are plucked with a plectrum.
Many variants of the mandolin have existed. These include Milanese, Lombard, Brescian and other six-course types, as well as four-string (one string per course), twelve-string (three strings per course), and sixteen-string (four strings per course).