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
). 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.