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minstrel

[min-struh l]
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noun
  1. a medieval poet and musician who sang or recited while accompanying himself on a stringed instrument, either as a member of a noble household or as an itinerant troubadour.
  2. a musician, singer, or poet.
  3. one of a troupe of comedians, usually white men in blackface, presenting songs, jokes, etc., and portraying negative racial stereotypes.
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Origin of minstrel

1175–1225; Middle English ministrel < Old French < Late Latin ministeriālis servant (noun use of adj.); see ministerial
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

troubadourpoetmusicianbardjongleurballadeersingershowplayerperformanceharperminnesingertrouveurgleeman

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British Dictionary definitions for minstrel

minstrel

noun
  1. a medieval wandering musician who performed songs or recited poetry with instrumental accompaniment
  2. a performer in a minstrel show
  3. archaic, or poetic any poet, musician, or singer
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Word Origin

C13: from Old French menestral, from Late Latin ministeriālis an official, from Latin minister
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 minstrel

n.

early 13c., from Old French menestrel "entertainer, poet, musician; servant, workman; good-for-nothing, rogue," from Medieval Latin ministralis "servant, jester, singer," from Late Latin ministerialem (nominative ministerialis) "imperial household officer, one having an official duty," from ministerialis (adj.) "ministerial," from Latin ministerium (see ministry). The connecting notion is via the jester, etc., as a court position.

Specific sense of "musician" developed in Old French, but in English until 16c. the word was used of anyone (singers, storytellers, jugglers, buffoons) whose profession was to entertain patrons. Only in 18c. was the word limited, in a historical sense, to "medieval singer of heroic or lyric poetry who accompanied himself on a stringed instrument." Reference to blackface music acts in U.S. is from 1843.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper