General English

  • noun a person who juggles


  • A performer who throws and catches objects (such as balls,plates, knives, etc.) in quick succession to create a variety of patternsin flight. The art was practised in ancient Egypt, China, and Greece;in Rome, knife jugglers were known as ventilatores and balljugglers as pilarii.

    During the Middle Ages jugglers featured at court entertainments,the best-known being Pierre Gringore (1475 - 1538), who was chieffool at the French court and also an actor and playwright. Jugglingwas a popular entertainment at fairs and, with the development ofthe circus during the 19th century, became a prominent featureof big-top performances. One Russian circus even claimed to have abear who had been trained to juggle a flaming torch.

    In the 19th century British music hall and variety stagesoffered both the 'strength juggler' and the 'salon juggler'. The former,which included Karl Rappo (1800 - 54), juggled heavy objects,including other human beings. The antipodean juggler layon his back and tossed a heavy object from one foot to the other;if this were a young boy, the feat was called the Icarus trick.

    The salon juggler tossed billiard balls, fans, and similaritems, often balancing them on his head or chin. A famous examplewas Paul Cinquevalli (Paul Kestner; 1859 - 1918), known as TheHuman Billiard Table, who dressed in green baize with pocketsat his waist, shoulders, and spine. He had the uncanny skill of jugglingand rolling billiard balls over his body until they were all neatlypocketed. Another music-hall favourite was the restaurant scene popularizedby the Charles Perzoff Troupe (1890 - 1910) during which waitersand customers end up wildly juggling a five-course meal. W. C. Fields(1879 - 1946) began his career as a stage juggler before becominga Hollywood comedian. Jugglers have practised their art riding theunicycle, blindfolded on horseback, and on the high wire.

    In Britain and America, juggling has recently undergone arevival in popularity as a sport, particularly the variety of clubjuggling introduced to Britain in the 19th century from India and formerlyknown as Indian club swinging. see also acrobatics.

Origin & History of “juggler”

A juggler was originally a ‘jester’, and the word is related to English joke. Its ultimate source was Latin joculātor, a derivative of jocus ‘jest’ (from which English gets joke). This passed into Old French as jogleor, and was borrowed into English at the beginning of the 12th century. It denoted a general entertainer or buffoon, but it was also used for a magician or conjurer, and it was presumably an underlying notion of dexterity or sleight of hand that led by the 17th century to its being used for someone who keeps several objects in the air at the same time. Old French jogleor became modern French jougleur, and this spawned the variant form jongleur, which was borrowed into English in the 18th century.