gri·​ot | \ ˈgrē-ˌō How to pronounce griot (audio) \

Definition of griot

: any of a class of musician-entertainers of western Africa whose performances include tribal histories and genealogies broadly : storyteller

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An African tribal storyteller and musician is called a griot. The griot’s role was to preserve the genealogies and oral traditions of the tribe. They were usually among the oldest men in a tribe. In places where written language is the privilege of the few, the place of the griot as cultural guardian is still maintained. In Senegal, for example, the griot—without resorting to fantasy—recites poems or tells stories of warriors, drawing on his own sources of inspiration.

Examples of griot in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Questlove is nothing short of what West Africans call a griot; a lyricist, musician, keeper and an orator of history. Meagan Jordan, Rolling Stone, 21 Oct. 2021 Those in the crowd on Wednesday night included Davis; the museum's griot, or storyteller, Reggie Jackson; Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley; and Ald. La Risa R. Lynch, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8 Sep. 2021 Kilomba, who is of West African descent, describes her role in the film as that of a griot, a storyteller of the African oral tradition, while an ensemble of Black actors dance and mime, silently acting out the tales. New York Times, 8 July 2021 Director Sheri Williams Pannell also served as onstage griot (and occasional sixth singer). Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 22 June 2021 These scenes are framed by interjections from a griot, or traditional Black storyteller. Jesse Green, New York Times, 13 Apr. 2021 Both the playwright and the actor have a touch of griot in them. Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 24 Mar. 2021 This invention was created simultaneously by many different global authors, among them the 13th-century West African griot poet who composed the Epic of Sundiata. Angus Fletcher, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Mar. 2021 Yet, through his films, vivid impressions that weave the past and present of Ivory Coast, Lacôte has already risen as a sort of cinematic griot, a modern keeper of his people’s history. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 6 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'griot.' 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 griot

1820, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for griot


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Last Updated

29 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Griot.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.

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