The flute is a family of musical instruments in the woodwind group. 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 categorised as edge-blown aerophones. A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flautist or, less commonly, fluter or flautist.
Flutes are the earliest extant musical instruments, as paleolithic instruments with hand-bored holes have been found. Several flutes dating to about 43,000 to 35,000 years ago have been found in the Swabian Jura region of present-day Germany. These flutes demonstrate that a developed musical tradition existed from the earliest period of modern human presence in Europe.