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minstrel

minstrel, professional secular musician of the Middle Ages. The modern application of the term is general and includes the jongleurs. Certain very able jongleurs ceased their wanderings and were attached to a court to play or sing the songs of the troubadours or trouvères who employed them. To these and to some itinerant musicians was applied in the 14th cent. the term ménétrier and later ménestrel, from which the word minstrel is derived, to indicate a higher social class than jongleur. Increasing in number and influence, these minstrels were organized and given protection of the law. Their function was at times similar to that of the Welsh bard.

See E. Duncan, The Story of Minstrelsy (1907, repr. 1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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