The name mandola may originate with the ancient pandura, and was also rendered as mandora, the change perhaps having been due to approximation to the Italian word for "almond". The instrument developed from the lute at an early date, being more compact and cheaper to build, but the sequence of development and nomenclature in different regions is now hard to discover. Historically related instruments include the mandore, mandole, pandurina, bandurina, and—in 16th century Germany—the quinterne or chiterna. However, significantly different instruments have at times and places taken on the same or similar names, and the "true" mandola has been strung in several different ways.
     The mandola has four double courses of metal strings, tuned in unison rather than in octaves. The scale length is typically around 42 cm (16.5 inches). The mandola is typically played with a plectrum. The double strings accommodate a sustaining technique called tremolando, a rapid alternation of the plectrum on a single course of strings.
     Mandolas are not uncommon in folk music, (particularly Italian folk music) and sometimes used in Irish traditional music, although far less often, in the latter case, than the octave mandola, Irish bouzouki, and modern cittern. Some Irish traditional musicians, such as Andy Irvine restring the tenor mandola with lighter strings and tune it as a mandolin, while others (Brian McDonagh of Dervish being the best known) use altered tunings such as D-A-E-A. Like the guitar the mandola can be acoustic or electric. Attila the Stockbroker, punk poet and frontman of Barnstormer, uses an electric mandola as his main instrument. Alex Lifeson, guitarist of Rush, has also featured the mandola in his work.