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In Celtic society, a bard was a professional poet, paid by a monarch to praise the sovereign's activities. If the monarch failed to pay the proper amount, the bard would then compose a satire.

In later English society, bards performed for the people as well as the nobility, travelling town to town and performing poems and ballads. Many bards did not write original songs, but rather sang traditional folk songs, often adding additional verses or composing new music for them. The Elder Edda, a 13th century compilation of Norse mythology, was composed mostly by Norwegian and Icelandic bards called skalds.

In the Soviet Union, traveling musicians called bards became popular during the 1960s.

Bard the Bowman is a character in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.

When capitalized, as in "The Bard", it usually refers to William Shakespeare.

Bard College is a liberal arts school in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

In Dungeons & Dragons, bard is character class representing a magic-using minstrel who combines aspects of warrior, rogue, and wizard into one.