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[buhsk] /bʌsk/
verb (used without object)
Chiefly British. to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place.
Canadian. to make a showy or noisy appeal.
Origin of busk
1850-55; perhaps, if earlier sense was “to make a living by entertaining,” < Polari < Italian buscare to procure, get, gain < Spanish buscar to look for, seek (of disputed orig.)
Related forms
busker, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for busk
Historical Examples
  • busk, to sell obscene songs and books at the bars and in the tap-rooms of public-houses.

    The Slang Dictionary John Camden Hotten
  • I have left the responsibility with busk whether or no to read the letters.

  • If thou hast as much mind now to go to the Thing as thou saidst a while ago, busk thyself and ride along with me.

  • It's no that difficult to busk the hooks; maybe you would be liken' to try.

    Morag Janet Milne Rae
  • In 1863 busk, Huxley, and Lyell also placed this skeleton in its true intermediate position between man and the anthropoid apes.

    Men of the Old Stone Age Henry Fairfield Osborn
  • Could see her in the bedroom from the hearth unclamping the busk of her stays: white.

    Ulysses James Joyce
  • "So it is, Miss Erema," Mrs. busk replied, without any congenial excitement.

    Erema R. D. Blackmore
  • For now I had made up my mind to let Mrs. busk know whatever I could tell her.

    Erema R. D. Blackmore
  • Mr. busk informs me that a precisely similar breccia is found at Gibraltar at approximately the same level.

  • Mrs. busk considered not the sun, neither any of his doings.

    Erema R. D. Blackmore
British Dictionary definitions for busk


a strip of whalebone, wood, steel, etc, inserted into the front of a corset to stiffen it
(archaic or dialect) the corset itself
Word Origin
C16: from Old French busc, probably from Old Italian busco splinter, stick, of Germanic origin


(intransitive) (Brit) to make money by singing, dancing, acting, etc, in public places, as in front of theatre queues
Derived Forms
busker, noun
busking, noun
Word Origin
C20: perhaps from Spanish buscar to look for


verb (transitive) (Scot)
to make ready; prepare
to dress or adorn
Word Origin
C14: from Old Norse būask, from būa to make ready, dwell; see bower1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for busk

"strip of wood, whalebone, etc., used in corset-making," 1590s, probably from French busc (16c.), from Italian bosco "splinter," of Germanic origin (see bush (n.)).


"to prepare, to dress oneself," also "to go, set out," c.1300, probably from Old Norse buask "to prepare oneself," reflexive of bua "to prepare" (see bound (adj.2)) + contraction of Old Norse reflexive pronoun sik. Most common in northern Middle English and surviving chiefly in Scottish and northern English dialect. Related boun had the same senses in northern and Scottish Middle English. Related: Busked; busking.

The nautical term is attested from 1660s (in a general sense of "to tack, to beat to windward"), apparently from obsolete French busquer "to shift, filch, prowl," which is related to Italian buscare "to filch, prowl," Spanish buscar (from Old Spanish boscar), perhaps originally from bosco "wood" (see bush (n.)), with a hunting notion of "beating a wood" to flush game.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for busk



To perform music in subway stations or other public places, taking the contributions of listeners •Very common in Great Britain, but spreading to the US (1840s+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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