Definition of samisen in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsamɪsɛn/
(also shamisen /ˈʃamɪsɛn/)


A traditional Japanese three-stringed lute with a square body, played with a large plectrum.
Example sentences
  • She played her favorite tunes for us on her shamisen (three-stringed Japanese banjo), wishing him a happy future.
  • He plays the futozao shamisen, a three-stringed instrument from which she extracts a soft array of sounds, from subdued scrapes, to slow, meditative plucking, to ratcheting and vibrating string-bends.
  • They enter o-chayas/okiyas at a young age to learn the traditional arts - dance, music, which is performed mostly on stringed instruments like the samisen and the koto, along with conversational and entertaining arts.


Early 17th century: Japanese, from Chinese san-hsien, from san 'three' + hsien 'string'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sami|sen

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