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The earliest written reference to a flute is from a Sumerian-language cuneiform tablet dated to c. Additionally, a set of cuneiform tablets knows as the "musical texts" provide precise tuning instructions for seven scale of a stringed instrument (assumed to be a Babylonian lyre).

One of those scales is named embūbum, which is an Akkadian word for "flute".

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Critical variables affecting this acoustic impedance include: chimney length (hole between lip-plate and head tube), chimney diameter, and radii or curvature of the ends of the chimney and any designed restriction in the "throat" of the instrument, such as that in the Japanese Nohkan Flute.

A study in which professional flutists were blindfolded could find no significant differences between flutes made from a variety of metals.

As such, Jubal is regarded in the Judeo-Christian tradition as the inventor of the flute (a word used in some translations of this biblical passage).

Archeological digs in the Holy Land have discovered flutes from both the Bronze Age (c.

For a list of notable flute performers, see List of flautists. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening.

According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones.

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The earliest extant Chinese transverse flute is a chi (篪) flute discovered in the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng at the Suizhou site, Hubei province, China. It is fashioned of lacquered bamboo with closed ends and has five stops that are at the flute's side instead of the top.