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stringed musical instrument, with a body resembling a tambourine. The banjo consists of a hoop over which a skin membrane is stretched; it has a long, often fretted neck and four to nine strings, which are plucked with a pick or the fingers. Slaves brought it to America (by 1688) from W Africa, to which it may have come from Europe or Asia. It was played in minstrel shows in the 19th cent. It is used frequently in hillbilly and Southern folk music. Because of an incisive, percussive quality, it is often used as a rhythm or a solo instrument in Dixieland bands.



pizzicato string instrument akin to the guitar. The body is in the shape of a flat tambourine with a skin diaphragm. It has four to nine strings. The sharp, harsh, quickly fading sound is produced with a plectrum. Around the 17th century it was brought from Western Africa to the USA, where it was widely used by Negroes for accompaniment to singing and for solo playing. In the 19th century it was improved: the five-string banjo appeared, and stops on the neck came into use. Varieties of banjos of different sizes and pitches are used in jazz.


a stringed musical instrument with a long neck (usually fretted) and a circular drumlike body overlaid with parchment, plucked with the fingers or a plectrum