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"itinerant entertainer," 1857, from busk (v.) "to offer goods for sale only in bars and taprooms," 1851 (in Mayhew), perhaps from busk "to cruise as a pirate," which was used in a figurative sense by 1841, in reference to people living shiftless and peripatetic lives. Busker has been mistakenly derived from buskin in the stage sense.
To perform music in subway stations or other public places, taking the contributions of listeners •Very common in Great Britain, but spreading to the US (1840s+)