The clarinet is a family of woodwind instruments that have a single-reed mouthpiece, a straight cylindrical tube with an approximately cylindrical bore, and a flaring bell. A person who plays any type of clarinet is called a clarinetist or clarinettist.

The word clarinet may have entered the English language via the French clarinette (the feminine diminutive of Old French clarin or clarion), or from Provençal clarin, "oboe".[1] It "is plainly a diminutive of clarino, the Italian for trumpet", and the Italian clarinetto is the source of the name in many other languages. According to Johann Gottfried Walther, writing in 1732, the reason for the name is that "it sounded from far off not unlike a trumpet". The English form clarinet is found as early as 1733, and the now-archaic clarionet appears from 1784 until the early years of the 20th century.[2]

There are some different types of clarinets of differing sizes and pitches. The unmodified word clarinet usually refers to the B soprano clarinet, by far the most common type, which has a large range of nearly four octaves.[3] The clarinet family is the largest woodwind family, with more than a dozen types, ranging from the (extremely rare) BBB octo-contrabass to the A piccolo clarinet. Of these, many are rare or obsolete (there is only one BBB octo-contrabass clarinet in existence, for example), and music written for them is usually played on more common versions of the instrument.