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Is there explanation for why a guitar neck is called a "neck"? I can understand why a guitar body is called a "body" but not the neck.

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    What's the thing called that sticks out of the top of your body, and that your head sits on? Maybe, like me, you only have a short one? – Mick Dec 7 '16 at 16:44
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    Any long thin section connecting two parts of an elongated structure can be called a "neck". It's possibly relevant to note that the end beyond the neck of a bottle can be called the mouth, and that end of a guitar includes the [machine] heads. – FumbleFingers Dec 7 '16 at 16:50
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    My guess, though I don't have anything specific to back it up, is that it's because it connects the body to the headstock (the part where the tuning pegs are attached) – Jez W Dec 7 '16 at 17:01
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    I am kind of disappointed that this was closed as "Answerable by a dictionary". Can someone point me to the dictionary that explains why we call it a "neck" and not an "arm"? A quick search turned up nothing about why. On the other hand, I think the question could use more detail. For example, why do you think you know why the body is called a "body" but don't understand the neck part? – ColleenV Dec 8 '16 at 0:14
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    @Mick In addition to what Colleen said, the Stack Exchange model is of the user as moderator. In general, moderators only need to be involved in edge cases. The day-to-day moderation of the site is left to the user-moderators - those people with sufficient reputation to perform various moderation tasks. That comment from TRomano is (I believe) his close vote reason, seeing as it coincides exactly with the time of the post's closure. So, in a way, you did see a moderator flag the post as off topic. That's exactly what his comment was. – Catija Dec 8 '16 at 0:50
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The "neck" of a guitar is a body metaphor.

The guitar has a "body" "neck" and "head" -- the thinner "neck" connects the smaller "head" to the larger "body," as in the human body and many animals. A guitar is like a flamingo, or a giraffe -- or a person.

In general see this definition neck:

"A narrow connecting or end part of something" (Oxford Dictionaries).

Thus:

  • the neck of a bottle
  • the neck of a waterway
  • a neck of land with ocean on either side
  • "our neck of the woods," an idiom for "neighborhood"/"area" that emphasizes isolation, like a community along a long stretch (neck) of forest path.
  • the neck of a guitar or other instrument

Most stringed instruments have "necks" because of the design of the fretboard. Examples of exceptions include the piano and the harpsichord. Since they have necks as a family of objects, even very short and stocky stringed instruments (such as the hurdy-gurdy) can often be described as having a neck.

A variety of stringed instruments

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    Many instruments can also be said to have a tail (cf. tailpin, tailpiece, tailgut) opposite the head. – snailcar Dec 7 '16 at 17:39
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The top of the guitar is called the headstock, so logically the thing that connects the body to the head would be the neck.

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A human neck is short, but necks can be long.

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  • Why is it called a headstock? – SovereignSun Dec 7 '16 at 17:23
  • Head can be generalized/figuratively used to mean a not overlarge thing or mass at the front or top of something. Stock is used to describe a wooden surface that is part of a tool or instrument. According to Google stock comes from an Old English word meaning "trunk or block of wood." – LawrenceC Dec 7 '16 at 19:04
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Anything that is thin compared to regions it is attached to can be called a neck. The term is used a lot in materials science and various engineering disciplines. In fact, you call it necking when pulling on something makes it thin out as it stretches. If the "thin connector" meaning is too much of a stretch (pun intended) from the anatomical meaning for you, just think of it as a word that has two meanings.

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In all likelihood the origin is not English. I can't find any references but I expect that when the first stringed instruments were created the long part that sticks out of the "body" was called the "neck" in the local language.

The word "guitar" itself derives from the Sanskrit "tar" (e.g. "sitar") and so I expect the other parts of the guitar (or similar stringed instruments) derive from Sanskrit -- or other languages like Arabic, since the lute comes from the Moorish "oud". Over time these names may have either been translated into English, or the original word used because there was no English equivalent.

Or possibly just made up based on what they look like. Interestingly the equivalent to guitar neck in Spanish is mástil, which means "mast" in English.

Given that the parts of the lute are similarly named, though, my guess is that the parts of the guitar in English derive from the lute, since that's a much older instrument.

  • According to the full OED, metaphoric neck has been around for at least 600 years (maybe 200 years after we imported the basic anatomical sense from Old Frisian hnekka, Middle Dutch nec, necke), but their first citation for guitar is less than 400 years ago. So I can't really see any justification for your first assertion above. – FumbleFingers Dec 7 '16 at 17:55
  • @FumbleFingers I just said that the long part of whatever string instruments existed might have been called the "neck" in whatever was the local language. For example the long part of the lute is also called the "neck" (at least, nowadays) and it has been played in Europe for much longer than the guitar. – Andrew Dec 7 '16 at 18:50
  • The metaphoric sense is so transparent I really don't see any reason to link it to similar usages which might have occurred in other languages (contemporary or ancient). The fact that 200 years passed between OED's first "literal" cite, and the later "metaphorical" usage is probably a misleading result of the fact that we don't have many old texts to consult, particularly in respect of colloquial / metaphoric usages. I doubt very much that English needed the help of other languages to start using metaphoric neck in a wide variety of contexts. – FumbleFingers Dec 7 '16 at 19:01

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