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[min-struh l] /ˈmɪn strəl/

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.
a musician, singer, or poet.
one of a troupe of comedians, usually white men made up as black performers, presenting songs, jokes, etc.
a medieval wandering musician who performed songs or recited poetry with instrumental accompaniment
a performer in a minstrel show
(archaic or poetic) any poet, musician, or singer

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.

(Matt. 9:23), a flute-player. Such music was a usual accompaniment of funerals. In 2 Kings 3:15 it denotes a player on a stringed instrument.


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