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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.
Contemporary Examples

Before Earl Scruggs, banjo players were not front men, but they were funny.
Earl Scruggs, Dead at 88, Pioneered a Banjo Style Imitated but Never Equaled Malcolm Jones March 28, 2012

When he was 11, his father built him a banjo, at first fashioning the head out of groundhog hide.
Doc Watson, a Legendary Picker, Was Traditional Music’s Best Ambassador Malcolm Jones May 29, 2012

In a tradition that goes back to the days of the minstrel show, the banjo player doubled as a comedian.
Earl Scruggs, Dead at 88, Pioneered a Banjo Style Imitated but Never Equaled Malcolm Jones March 28, 2012

Jokes about banjo players , on the other hand, will never die.
Earl Scruggs, Dead at 88, Pioneered a Banjo Style Imitated but Never Equaled Malcolm Jones March 28, 2012

In her down time, she plays the banjo in an all-girl band, Loose Gravel.
Could Michelle Obama Run for the U.S. Senate? Eleanor Clift March 30, 2013

Historical Examples

Plays on de peany—plays on de guitar—guitar jes like banjo, an Ole Zip play on daat heamseff—he do.
The Quadroon Mayne Reid

He just missed running into banjo on the Hog’s Back by the skin of the teeth.
Chip, of the Flying U B. M. Bower

Can play the banjo, and twenty-six games of lawn-tennis without fatigue.
Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. 98, April 5, 1890 Various

Down the middle of the guitar there is a walled enclosure of the shape of a banjo.
The Manxman Hall Caine

“Oh, well, from reports I reckon Mrs. Cyril doesn’t play either a banjo or a guitar,” smiled Arkwright.
Miss Billy Married Eleanor H. Porter

noun (pl) -jos, -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
(Austral & NZ, slang) a long-handled shovel with a wide blade
(modifier) banjo-shaped: a banjo clock

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.

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.


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