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[buhsk] /bʌsk/
verb (used without object)
Chiefly British. to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place.
Canadian. to make a showy or noisy appeal.
Origin of busk
1850-55; perhaps, if earlier sense was “to make a living by entertaining,” < Polari < Italian buscare to procure, get, gain < Spanish buscar to look for, seek (of disputed orig.)
Related forms
busker, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for busking
Historical Examples
  • A younger daughter was sitting “busking her puppies” (dressing her puppets, dolls), as young girls are used to do.

    Witch Stories E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn) Linton
  • They therefore decided that the band should go out "busking" each evening during Christmas week.

    From John O'Groats to Land's End Robert Naylor and John Naylor
  • She is busking up her hair just as was gude enough for the old nuns, but no for kings and queens.'

    Two Penniless Princesses Charlotte M. Yonge
  • Yet I had stayed this busking marriage Had not my brothers pressed me to such haste And peace not waited on it.

    The Mortal Gods and Other Plays Olive Tilford Dargan
British Dictionary definitions for busking


a strip of whalebone, wood, steel, etc, inserted into the front of a corset to stiffen it
(archaic or dialect) the corset itself
Word Origin
C16: from Old French busc, probably from Old Italian busco splinter, stick, of Germanic origin


(intransitive) (Brit) to make money by singing, dancing, acting, etc, in public places, as in front of theatre queues
Derived Forms
busker, noun
busking, noun
Word Origin
C20: perhaps from Spanish buscar to look for


verb (transitive) (Scot)
to make ready; prepare
to dress or adorn
Word Origin
C14: from Old Norse būask, from būa to make ready, dwell; see bower1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for busking

1851, slang, described variously as selling articles or obscene ballads in public houses, playing music on the streets, or performing as a sort of informal stand-up comedy act in pubs, perhaps from an earlier word meaning "to cruise as a pirate" (see busker).



"strip of wood, whalebone, etc., used in corset-making," 1590s, probably from French busc (16c.), from Italian bosco "splinter," of Germanic origin (see bush (n.)).


"to prepare, to dress oneself," also "to go, set out," c.1300, probably from Old Norse buask "to prepare oneself," reflexive of bua "to prepare" (see bound (adj.2)) + contraction of Old Norse reflexive pronoun sik. Most common in northern Middle English and surviving chiefly in Scottish and northern English dialect. Related boun had the same senses in northern and Scottish Middle English. Related: Busked; busking.

The nautical term is attested from 1660s (in a general sense of "to tack, to beat to windward"), apparently from obsolete French busquer "to shift, filch, prowl," which is related to Italian buscare "to filch, prowl," Spanish buscar (from Old Spanish boscar), perhaps originally from bosco "wood" (see bush (n.)), with a hunting notion of "beating a wood" to flush game.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for busking



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+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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