Definition of minstrel in English:



  • 1A medieval singer or musician, especially one who sang or recited lyric or heroic poetry to a musical accompaniment for the nobility.

    ‘they listened to the minstrels singing songs of knightly prowess’
    • ‘Serfs had simple diets and traveling minstrels and entertainers came to the manor.’
    • ‘As minstrels and troubadours spread his legend across England, the peasantry embraced Robin Hood and his band of outlaws as their heroes just as much as the nobility idealized King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as their own.’
    • ‘Traveling minstrels serenaded their clients with bawdy or heroic tales set to music.’
    • ‘Troubadours and minstrels used to be homeless buskers, driven from city to city (by baying mobs I hope) with the odd groat and a good bumming from Richard I being their only reward.’
    • ‘Poetry is often sung by minstrels and ballad singers.’
    • ‘Unlike the minstrel who sings freely, with his audience joining in, Spenser now has to deal with the expectations of his audience.’
    • ‘Although most of their verse was set to music, sung by the Minnesinger themselves and often accompanied by professional minstrels, few melodies have survived from the first two centuries of the movement's existence.’
    • ‘We are the travelling bards of the renaissance; travelling minstrels that make music for people to make them happy.’
    • ‘Their condition indicates long usage and there is textual evidence that they were used as illustrations to stories told and performed by travelling minstrels.’
    • ‘True, if he had talked it over with someone, he would have realized that love can be a long, hard road, just like the minstrels sang about.’
    • ‘They were meant for minstrels to sing in baronial halls.’
    • ‘Additionally, the cultural heritage has been immortalized in the famous epic poem Sonjara, sung by minstrels since the thirteenth century.’
    • ‘While having his meal, the stranger listened to the minstrel who was performing in the tavern.’
    • ‘They will spend the first two nights mingling with minstrels and musicians at the fairytale, medieval-style Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas.’
    • ‘The ladies rode on palfreys or were drawn on litters, escorted by gentlemen, squires and pages, with trumpeters, drummers and minstrels.’
    • ‘Are we to believe that bushido warriors in Edo Japan, princes and minstrels in medieval Europe, Renaissance courtesans and Mongol nomads were lacking because their lives failed to square with a modern ideal of personal autonomy?’
    • ‘The minstrel was often paid to sing the praises of his master at the feast (as bad as the holiday slides!)’
    • ‘With the invention of print, minstrels in their medieval form largely disappeared, becoming balladeers selling broadsheets of their songs and singing to advertise their wares, or stage-players.’
    • ‘Where Benchtours and Théâtre Sans Frontières take us into another world, Borderline take us back in time to Italy's medieval minstrels with Dario Fo's Mistero Buffo.’
    • ‘The term buskers originates from an old French word for troubadours - minstrels, love singers or poets.’
    musician, singer, balladeer
    bard, troubadour, jongleur
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1historical A member of a band of entertainers with blackened faces who performed songs and music ostensibly of black American origin.
      • ‘The blues ‘sound’ of black minstrel life is audible here, in the paradoxical conjunction of Pullman car luxury with preparations for ignominious flight.’
      • ‘Picking up where Elder Eatmore had left off, black entertainers continued to use minstrel antics into the 1940s and 1950s to parody and satirize black folk religion.’
      • ‘Given the classroom incident that leads to his downfall, the resulting ironies multiply in ways that could only happen in a Roth novel and in an era when Black characters can turn minstrel stereotypes on their ear by masquerading as Jews.’
      • ‘‘Aunt Jemima of the Ocean Waves’ is a two-part interrogation of the black minstrel tradition embodied by the famous face of Aunt Jemima.’
      • ‘His career, which included stints as an amateur boxer, minstrel in black face and dancer, spanned seven decades in which he starred in five mediums: vaudeville, radio, stage, movies and television.’
      • ‘Soon all blackface performers were known as minstrels.’
      • ‘The success of burlesque in the late 1860s spawned several all-female white troupes performing standard minstrel routines in whiteface.’
      • ‘Producing affective switch points between two simultaneous registers of sympathy and ridicule, minstrel performances catalyze confrontations within social relations.’
      • ‘To put the matter another way, black minstrels led blues lives that their burlesque art could not adequately express.’
      • ‘Its writers were not able to assuage our memory of the minstrel with black characters who, without a full range of emotion, were no more than highly skilled laborers.’
      • ‘They dressed themselves up as black and white minstrels - that sort of thing,’ says Mark.’
      • ‘Bal gives a personal, nuanced account of her own wrestling with the incongruence of a black minstrel tradition amidst The Netherlands' sea of whiteness.’
      • ‘Later in his career, Douglass became a vocal opponent of minstrel humor, performed either by blacks or whites.’
      • ‘This included the songs sung by black minstrels and early jazz musicians.’
      • ‘Even if some poor whites of the South got their first tastes of banjo and banjo-fiddle music from minstrels, those performers were the apprentices of black musicians representing a direct thread from blacks to whites to more whites.’
      • ‘If the last generation of black minstrels hadn't been killed and almost killed by white Southerners on a daily basis-and been driven to take up arms-they wouldn't have needed that music either.’
      • ‘Looking in the mirror above the sink, he saw that his face was covered in a thin layer of sooty grime, like a black and white minstrel half way through putting on his make up.’
      • ‘How white performers acquired the knowledge and skills to imitate blacks on the minstrel stage is less apparent, though some information exists.’
      • ‘Sometimes, as here, valor among black minstrels consisted of exercising discretion and living to fight another day.’
      • ‘Touring black minstrel troupes flourished from the 1860s into the early years of the 20th century, providing an avenue by which black Americans could make a living as musicians.’


Middle English: from Old French menestral entertainer, servant, via Provençal from late Latin ministerialis servant (see ministerial).