Poet, versifier, rhymer, rhymester, poetaster, bard, minstrel, troubadour denote a composer who uses metrical or rhythmical language as his medium.
Poet is used in a generic sense and in several highly specific senses. In its generic sense it applies to any writer or maker of verse; in its specific senses it applies only to a composer of verse who in his composition exhibits qualities regarded as essential by the age or time or by the writer or speaker who uses the term.
With all its variations in implications in these specific senses, poet usually stresses creative and expressive power as the prime essential, sometimes without clear reference to skill in constructing verses.
Versifier may designate a composer who uses verse as his medium without reference to qualities thought of as essential to poetry. In contrast to poet, it implies the lack of such a quality or qualities.
Rhymer and rhymester, once descriptive rather than depreciative, now tend to be even more definitely and consistently depreciatory than versifier in their implication of mediocrity or inferiority.
Poetaster is a term of contempt applied to versifiers whose work is regarded as unimportant, trashy, or inane.
Bard basically applies to a tribal poet-singer (as among the ancient Celts) who composed verses praising heroes, chiefs, or warriors or recounting historical facts or traditions and who sang or recited them to the accompaniment of the harp or similar musical instrument. In extended use bard is a more or less romantic or florid synonym of poet used especially of one who writes impassioned, lyrical, or epic verse.
Minstrel basically applies to a medieval public entertainer, often a strolling musician and mountebank, who sang songs (sometimes his own) to the accompaniment of a harp or other instrument and performed tricks; among its current extended applications is one in which it is close to bard in its implications, though it may place less emphasis on professional character and more on natural lyrical power.
Troubadour applies historically to a type of poet-musician found chiefly in southern France and northern Italy, frequently a knightly amateur, who composed lyrics (often also the music) in the Provençal tongue, usually of an amatory character and characteristically in a complicated metrical pattern; in extended use, the word loses its suggestion of artifice and technical skill in versifying and is often employed in place of minstrel in its extended sense or it may specifically denote one who uses his skill in expression for the promotion of some cause.