Etymology and terminology
The word flute first entered the English language during the Middle English period, as floute, or else flowte, flo(y)te, possibly from Old French flaute and from Old Provençal flaüt, or else from Old French fleüte, flaüte, flahute via Middle High German floite or Dutch fluit. The English verb flout has the same linguistic root, and the modern Dutch verb fluiten still shares the two meanings. Attempts to trace the word back to the Latin flare (to blow, inflate) have been pronounced "phonologically impossible" or "inadmissable". The first known use of the word flute was in the 14th century. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this was in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Hous of Fame, c.1380.
Today, a musician who plays any instrument in the flute family can be called a flutist (pronounced "FLEW-tist", most common in the US), or flautist (pronounced "FLAW-tist", most common in the UK), or simply a flute player (more neutrally). Flutist dates back to at least 1603, the earliest quotation cited by the Oxford English Dictionary. Flautist was used in 1860 by Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Marble Faun, after being adopted during the 18th century from Italy (flautista, itself from flauto), like many musical terms in England since the Italian Renaissance. Other English terms, now virtually obsolete, are fluter (15th–19th centuries) and flutenist (17th–18th centuries).