The original meaning of the Chinese character 笛 (dí) was an ancient Chinese flute that consisted of seven holes.
The upper part of the character is formed by ⺮, a variant of 竹 (zhú), which is the radical and character for bamboo and indicates the material that the typical Chinese flute is made of.
The lower part of the character 笛 (dí) is the character 由, which is an abbreviation of 迪 (dí) and indicates the pronunciation of 笛.
笛子 (dí zi), or simply 笛 (dí), refers to the Chinese side-blown (transverse) flute, or dizi, which is held horizontally when played. The dizi is also known as 竹笛 (zhú dí) or 橫笛 (héng dí), where 竹 (zhú) stands for bamboo and 橫 (héng) means “horizontal.”
In addition to the side-blown flute, another broad category of flute is the end-blown flute, which is held vertically when played.
簫 (xiāo) refers to the Chinese end-blown flute, also known as 洞簫 (dòng xiāo), where 洞 (dòng) means “hole.” It is also called 豎竹笛 (shù zhú dí), or “vertical bamboo flute,” where 豎 (shù) means “vertical.”
The phrase 品簫弄笛 (pǐn xiāo nòng dí), which translates as “plays the xiao, plays the di,” is used to describe someone who is an expert musician or specialist in music.
笛 (dí) is used in combination with other characters as well to indicate various types or parts of flutes and other devices that emit sound.
笛孔 (dí kǒng) refers to the finger holes of a flute, where 孔 (kǒng) refers to a hole or an opening or aperture.
羌笛 (qiāng dí) refers to the flute of the Qiang people, a Chinese ethnic group.
警笛 (jǐng dí) is a siren, where 警 (jǐng) refers to the police or conveys the idea of a warning, caution, or an alert.
汽笛 (qì dí) is a steam whistle or a ship’s horn, where 汽 (qì) refers to steam or vapour.