min·​strel | \ˈmin(t)-strəl \

Definition of minstrel 

1 : one of a class of medieval musical entertainers especially : a singer of verses to the accompaniment of a harp wandering minstrels

2a : musician

b : poet

3a : any of a troupe of performers typically giving a program of black American melodies, jokes, and impersonations and usually wearing blackface

b : a performance by a troupe of minstrels

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Synonyms for minstrel


bard, muse, poet, poetaster, rhymester (also rimester), versifier

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Examples of minstrel in a Sentence

Edna St. Vincent Millay was unofficially the minstrel of Maine, as her poetry celebrates its coast and countryside.

Recent Examples on the Web

While Guardian speculates the title is a reference to minstrel shows, the outlet also points to a 1985 Prince song with the same name. Zoe Haylock, The Hollywood Reporter, "6 Memorable Moments From Chris Rock's 'Tamborine'," 14 Feb. 2018 Consider Glover's dancing, presumably choreographed to mimic a minstrel character; the murder of choir singers, evoking the Charleston church massacre; and death riding in on a white horse. Sonia Rao, chicagotribune.com, "A new era of political music videos is born," 14 June 2018 Amos ’n’ Andy was a comedy series featuring African-American actors (albeit a deeply problematic one criticized for its depiction of African-Americans and its basis in a radio show that used minstrel stereotypes). Jeff Lipsky, HWD, "Milo Ventimiglia, Sara Gilbert, Constance Wu, and Other TV Moms and Dads Sound Off," 14 June 2018 Social media posts decried the dark skin tone, many likening it to the blackface minstrels of the 19th century that promoted racial stereotypes. Colleen Barry, chicagotribune.com, "Gigi Hadid, Vogue Italia apologize for darkened skin tone," 4 May 2018 The song's album art features an image of Drake allegedly wearing 19th century minstrel show blackface – an image Pusha T claims is an unedited photograph taken by David Leyes. Justin Carissimo, CBS News, "Pusha T claims Drake has a secret child with a porn star on new song," 30 May 2018 When the photos were taken in 2008, Drake may have been trying to offer a conscious critique on the rap industry becoming a modern minstrel show pandering to white audiences. refinery29.com, "We Need To Talk About Drake, Blackface, & That Jim Crow Shirt," 30 May 2018 Blackface, a form of theater makeup used by non-black actors to represent a caricature of a black person in minstrel shows that became popular in the 1830s, has long been considered offensive and racist across the United States. Brenda Medina, miamiherald, "Miami theater no longer features actress in blackface in Spanish-language play," 26 May 2018 There is the truly alarming sight of Mr. Glover’s body, and the minstrel twitch that sends his limbs spasming and causes his eyes to pop. Wesley Morris, New York Times, "‘Atlanta’ Skips a Grade," 11 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'minstrel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of minstrel

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for minstrel

Middle English menestral, menstral, mynstral, borrowed from Anglo-French menestral, menestrel "servant, attendant, official, workman, musical entertainer," borrowed from Medieval Latin ministeriālis "servant, functionary in a lord's household, official," going back to Late Latin, "imperial official," noun derivative of ministeriālis "serving, performing a duty" — more at ministerial

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Time Traveler for minstrel

The first known use of minstrel was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for minstrel



English Language Learners Definition of minstrel

: a musical entertainer in the Middle Ages

: a member of a group of entertainers who performed black American songs and jokes usually with blackened faces


min·​strel | \ˈmin-strəl \

Kids Definition of minstrel

1 : a musical entertainer in the Middle Ages

2 : a member of a group of entertainers who performed black American melodies and jokes with blackened faces in the 19th and early 20th centuries

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More from Merriam-Webster on minstrel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for minstrel

Spanish Central: Translation of minstrel

Nglish: Translation of minstrel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about minstrel

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by force of circumstances

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