This is prompted by another question and the ensuing comment discussion:

This question is about the word "cut" meaning a track on a record; an audio recording. The OED gives this definition:

A gramophone record or recording.

It seems like the natural assumption would be that the "cut" refers to the groove in the record, because in contemporary speech a "cut" usually refers to a single track on a larger "album."

However, the earliest attested use in the OED uses "cut" as a verb and a noun in the same sentence, making it sound like the noun "cut" derived from the act of cutting, as in cutting tape for a reel-to-reel recording device.

A recording artist cuts a master and the recording executive may reject the cut.

  • 1949 - Music Libr. Assoc. Notes Dec. 42

Is there any evidence or arguments in favor of an etymology of this modern sense of the word "cut" based on either the groove theory or the tape-cutting theory, or is there an alternative explanation?

1 Answer 1


Given that

  • creating a vinyl record starts with a mastering lathe physically cutting grooves in a lacquer master;
  • the creation of phonograph records (1877) predates the use of tape (1950's) to record and optimize the sound before committing it to a master disc by almost 80 years [How Records are Made];

I would say that cut derives from phonograph recording technology.

Also note that a cutting room refers to the area where the mastering lathes are operated. (Which is a very different sense than its use in the film industry.)

(Also, I can state from experience that one physically cuts an audio tape mainly to perform manual editing and splicing.)

  • Interesting. I always thought that you could cut an audio tape in the exact same sense that you cut celluloid, and that "a cut" could mean "the piece of tape that was snipped out of the master tape and discarded", and later came to mean "a piece of tape" per se.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 9:41
  • @MrLister you can, but it isn't :)
    – hobbs
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 9:47

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