noun, plural ban·jos, ban·joes.

a musical instrument of the guitar family, having a circular body covered in front with tightly stretched parchment and played with the fingers or a plectrum.

Origin of banjo

1730–40; compare Jamaican English banja, bonjour, bangil, Brazilian Portuguese banza; probably of African orig.; compare Kimbundu mbanza a plucked string instrument
Related formsban·jo·ist, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for banjo

Contemporary Examples of banjo

Historical Examples of banjo

  • On a low couch piled with cushions lay Helen's mandolin and a banjo.

  • He just missed running into Banjo on the Hog's Back by the skin of the teeth.

  • That evening old Barnaby brought his banjo around to the veranda.

  • Down the middle of the guitar there is a walled enclosure of the shape of a banjo.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • Come up and bring that boy with his banjo, and we'll have a lot of fun.

    Dave Porter At Bear Camp

    Edward Stratemeyer

British Dictionary definitions for banjo


noun plural -jos or -joes

a stringed musical instrument with a long neck (usually fretted) and a circular drumlike body overlaid with parchment, plucked with the fingers or a plectrum
slang any banjo-shaped object, esp a frying pan
Australian and NZ slang a long-handled shovel with a wide blade
(modifier) banjo-shapeda banjo clock
Derived Formsbanjoist, noun

Word Origin for banjo

C18: variant (US Southern pronunciation) of bandore
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

Word Origin and History for banjo

1764, American English, usually described as of African origin, probably akin to Bantu mbanza, an instrument resembling a banjo. The word has been influenced by colloquial pronunciation of bandore (1560s in English), a 16c. stringed instrument like a lute and an ancestor (musically and linguistically) of mandolin; from Portuguese bandurra, from Latin pandura, from Greek pandoura "three-stringed instrument." The origin and influence might be the reverse of what is here described.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

banjo in Culture


A stringed musical instrument, played by plucking (see strings). The banjo has a percussive sound and is much used in folk music and bluegrass music.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.