bon·​sai | \ (ˌ)bōn-ˈsī How to pronounce bonsai (audio) , ˈbōn-ˌsī, ˈbän-ˌsī also ˈbän-ˌzī How to pronounce bonsai (audio) \
plural bonsai

Definition of bonsai

: a potted plant (such as a tree) dwarfed (as by pruning) and trained to an artistic shape also : the art of growing such a plant

Illustration of bonsai

Illustration of bonsai

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This is a living dwarf tree. The word bonsai can also refer to the art of training and growing these dwarf plants in containers. Bonsai specimens are ordinary trees and shrubs, not hereditary dwarfs; they are dwarfed by a system of pruning roots and branches and training branches by tying them with wire. The art originated in China, but has been pursued and developed primarily by the Japanese. The inspiration for bonsai is found in nature, in trees that grow in harsh, rocky places, and are dwarfed and gnarled throughout their existence. Bonsai may live for a century or more and can be handed down from one generation to another. Bonsai pots, usually earthenware and of variable shape, are carefully chosen to harmonize in color and proportion with the tree. A sizable bonsai industry exists as part of the nursery industry in Japan. California is home to a small-scale bonsai industry.

Examples of bonsai in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Gardeners can learn the art of bonsai, load up on supplies and see more than 50 trees at the plant show. Anne Nickoloff,, "8 things to do in Cleveland on Sunday, June 23," 23 June 2019 And in the early 2000s, Washington State used selective tree harvesting, pesticides, and public education to stop the spread of the citrus long-horned beetle after it was spotted in a shipment of bonsai trees from Korea. Christina Nunez, National Geographic, "Invasive species, explained," 5 June 2019 The online superstore just slashed prices on select succulents and bonsai trees by 25% in honor of the holiday. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Succulents and Bonsai Trees Are 25% Off for Mother's Day on Amazon," 1 May 2019 Powell herself has become an expert on the pruning and care for bonsai. Philip Potempa, Post-Tribune, "Munster Garden Walk includes eclectic offerings in 2018," 13 June 2018 These stunning miniatures are like bonsai trees pruned with a switchblade. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: A Year in the Life of a Short Story," 28 Dec. 2018 The grounds also have four bonsai trees, each over 100 years old. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "This Is the Best Boutique Hotel in the World," 9 Nov. 2018 The tree has long outlived its life expectancy — a bonsai typically doesn't live more than 200 years. Lauren Smith, House Beautiful, "This Bonsai Tree Survived an Atomic Bomb," 7 Aug. 2015 According to the family, the bonsai tree was less than two miles away from the site of the bomb blast, which destroyed nearly 5 square miles of the Japanese city, and survived because it was located behind a nursery wall. Lauren Smith, House Beautiful, "This Bonsai Tree Survived an Atomic Bomb," 7 Aug. 2015

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bonsai.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bonsai

1899, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bonsai

Japanese, literally, tray planting

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Dictionary Entries near bonsai

bonorum possessio







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Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for bonsai

The first known use of bonsai was in 1899

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English Language Learners Definition of bonsai

: a very small tree or bush that is grown in a pot by using special methods to control its growth
: the art of growing bonsai

More from Merriam-Webster on bonsai

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bonsai Encyclopedia article about bonsai

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