Definition of banjo in English:



  • 1A stringed instrument of the guitar family, with a round open-backed soundbox of parchment stretched over a metal hoop.

    • ‘And all these sepia-toned images are lent strength by the gentle poetry of the lyrics, and the light, front-porch swing of the acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins and strings.’
    • ‘An acoustic guitar, an occasional banjo, a cello, a violin are all elements found at the core of The Books' music.’
    • ‘As the story of some rural drama unfurls, the track builds with more and more instruments fading in: low, swelling guitar chords, laconic banjos, mournful harmonies.’
    • ‘These rooms are full of acoustic guitar, banjos, mandolins, twelve-strings, and maybe an acoustic bass or two.’
    • ‘Now you too you can mimic a banjo or a slide guitar in your home or office.’
    • ‘It screams quality, instantly being recognisable and totally addictive, with its soaring vocals and excellent guitars and banjos.’
    • ‘He departs from convention in his cultivation of a deliberately rough sound, evoking mandolins, banjos, and guitars - in short, its surface.’
    • ‘But all bets are off for the bluegrass scorchers as the band breaks out the banjo and guitar.’
    • ‘No drums or foot stomps, just rusty voice, guitar, banjo and the occasional synth sound.’
    • ‘The guitar and the banjo are what I do most of my writing on.’
    • ‘Their huge array of instruments includes guitars, banjo, mandolin, bass, piano, organ, tabla and djembe, making this gig a must for all lovers of acoustic driven music.’
    • ‘Baxter is probably best known as the ace pedal steel, banjo, dobro, guitar, all-'round musical utility guy for Bob Dylan, Steve Earle and Ryan Adams.’
    • ‘In addition to playing the harmonica, he bends strings on acoustic slide guitar, banjo and an Indian instrument called the mohan veena.’
    • ‘Strings, guitars, banjo, tambourine, French horn, harp, clarinet, accordion, drums and chanting contribute to Arcade Fire's intensely deep but totally palatable fusion of sounds.’
    • ‘Most people, when they hear about the banjo and guitar, suspect it'll be pretty light.’
    • ‘Over two albums, the Books have plucked sampled voices from their original context and arranged them inside simple compositions for sliced-and-diced guitar, banjo, and cello.’
    • ‘Musically, the album isn't afraid of drawing on different instruments, from mouth organs to banjos, to acoustic guitars and piano.’
    • ‘The record is stuffed with two-part harmonies and country-lane textures - banjos, acoustic guitars and wood block percussion mix with piano, mellotron, and organ.’
    • ‘Harry played an acoustic lap guitar, mohan veena, six-string banjo, harmonica, tambura and sang like a bird.’
    • ‘The main sounds that are obvious on this record are human voice, guitars, slide guitars, banjos, hurdy gurdies, and tuned drums that sound like djembes or tomtoms.’
    1. 1.1 An object resembling a banjo in shape.
      as modifier ‘a banjo clock’
      • ‘Positively sealed by O-rings, the banjo design allows 360 degrees rotation of the regular for ideal positioning.’
      • ‘The variant of the Willard patent banjo clock shown in Plates IX and IXa is inscribed ‘DANIEL / MUNROE’ on the lower glass.’
      • ‘The rotating banjo hose attachment allows the hose to rotate up to 270 degrees for optimal hose routing.’
      • ‘Dating from between about 1795 and 1800, it has a dial signed by David Wood of Newbusyport, Massachusetts, who also made tall-case and banjo clocks.’
    2. 1.2Australian, NZ dated A shovel.


  • swing the banjo

    • informal Use a shovel, especially in a vigorous way.

      ‘I hope to be swinging the banjo around some of those stony ridges’
      • ‘It made no difference, and next morning he returned to swinging the banjo.’
      • ‘After swinging the banjo for eight hours, I sit down to write a few lines on what I think to be right.’
      • ‘We spend a lot of time swinging the banjo, and only yesterday had to put in a new winze, following damage to our trenches from Beachy Bill.’


Mid 18th century: originally a black American alteration of bandore (see bandora).