Definition of barker in US English:



  • A person who stands in front of a theater, sideshow, etc., and calls out to passersby to attract customers.

    • ‘He worked as a barker at the 1939 World's Fair and as a tour guide at NBC before making his Broadway debut in the lead in Emlyn Williams's Morning Star.’
    • ‘Yeah, there's a carny barker, but there's also kind of a desperate, Willy Loman-like quality to my endless hucksterism.’
    • ‘This, along with a change of stance and voice, is enough to populate the stage with a sadistic nun, a carnival barker, a sleazy dancer and, of course, wide-eyed Francesca.’
    • ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic musical takes you on a romantic ride of romance as the carousel barker Billy Bigelow falls in love with local town girl Julie Jordan.’
    • ‘You could say that saints' relics were the earliest tourist attractions, whose possessors competed for business like barkers at a fair.’
    • ‘If you get up and scream as if you're a fairground barker, an incredible energy has to come through.’
    • ‘He's become a carnival barker in this whole twisted sideshow.’
    • ‘Clapton was captivated by the rhythm and poignancy of: ‘One more car, one more rider,’ as the barker tried to fill the last seat in the last car before the ride started and decided to use it for this scintillating album.’
    • ‘Economists, bankers, and executives equated ad men with sideshow barkers, while scientists considered psychologists no better than fortune-tellers.’
    • ‘He is almost a sideshow barker for his car, and leaves many of the details of his imagination to his engineers to make reality.’
    • ‘Judge Moore is a carnival barker, playing this for all he can, getting those born-every-minute suckers to genuflect before a hunk of stone while he does his proselytizing before the television cameras.’
    • ‘His monologue has the theatrical showmanship of a barker or a master of ceremonies: ‘The time: now… which brings us to… the third and most important player’.’
    • ‘Wood observes that the revised version added a barker's spiel at the beginning and end, which sensationalizes the freaks and their violence.’
    • ‘The best moment, and most shameless use of the medium ever, consists of a barker drumming up business for the wax museum by whapping a paddleball RIGHT INTO THE CAMERA!’
    • ‘Gongs and brickbats: some parts of the park are a strange mix of super-high-tech rides and rather tawdry fairground stalls, complete with hustling barkers.’
    • ‘He wore this really ugly jacket with wide lapels that were embroidered at the edges so he looked like a cross between a carnival barker and a train conductor.’
    • ‘Better still: as a DVD bonus, the folks at Something Weird also include a short unedited collection of newsreel footage showing real life sideshow performers and barkers from the thirties.’
    • ‘The clearest example of Herzog's and presumably Büchner's point is the scene with the sideshow barker and his subjugated monkey in the silk and tassels of a high-ranking soldier.’
    • ‘Then the doors slide open, and a straw-hatted barker who looks like he's just stepped out of the 19th century greets you and ushers you into a Coca-Cola fantasyland.’
    • ‘But when someone who assumes the role of a journalist also works to promote the interests of others outside the media, he or she blurs the line that separates journalists from carnival barkers.’


Late Middle English: from bark + -er. The original sense was ‘a person or animal that barks; a noisy protestor’, hence the current sense (late 17th century).