The Violin family of musical instruments was developed in Italy in the sixteenth century. The standard modern violin family consists of the violin, viola, cello, and double bass.
Instrument names in the violin family are all derived from the root viola, which is a derivative of the Medieval Latin word vitula (meaning "stringed instrument").
A violino (Italian for "violin") is a "little viola", a violone is a "big viola" or a bass violin, and a violoncello (often abbreviated cello) is a "small violone" (or, literally, a "small big viola").
(The violone is not part of the modern violin family; its place is taken by the modern double bass, an instrument with a mix of violin and violone characteristics.)
The instruments of the violin family may be descended in part from the lira da braccio and the medieval Byzantine lira .