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.

1175–1225; Middle English ministrel < Old French < Late Latin ministeriālis servant (noun use of adj.); see ministerial

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World English Dictionary
minstrel (ˈmɪnstrəl)
1.  a medieval wandering musician who performed songs or recited poetry with instrumental accompaniment
2.  a performer in a minstrel show
3.  archaic, poetic or any poet, musician, or singer
[C13: from Old French menestral, from Late Latin ministeriālis an official, from Latin minister]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

early 13c., from O.Fr. menestral "entertainer, servant," from M.L. ministralis "servant, jester, singer," from L.L. ministerialem (nom. ministerialis) "imperial household officer, one having an official duty," from ministerialis (adj.) "ministerial," from L. ministerium (see
ministry). The connecting notion is via the jester, etc., as a court position. Specific sense of "musician" developed in O.Fr., 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.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Bible Dictionary

Minstrel definition

(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.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Example sentences
The minstrel performance is said to have been an unqualified success.
The dinner was given in the red room, and the occasion was enlivened by a minstrel band.
Minstrel shows often follow the performances to help add money to the under-financed operation.
He appeared in vintage hits and worked up a minstrel routine.
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