hai·​ku | \ ˈhī-(ˌ)kü How to pronounce haiku (audio) \
plural haiku

Definition of haiku

: an unrhymed verse form of Japanese origin having three lines containing usually five, seven, and five syllables respectively also : a poem in this form usually having a seasonal reference — compare tanka

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A haiku is an unrhymed Japanese poetic form that consists of 17 syllables arranged in three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables, respectively. A haiku expresses much and suggests more in the fewest possible words. The form gained distinction in the 17th century, when Basho, a Japanese poet considered the greatest practitioner of the form, elevated it to a highly refined art. It remains Japan’s most popular poetic form. The Imagist poets (1912–30) and others have imitated the form in English and other languages.

Examples of haiku in a Sentence

He has written many beautiful haiku.
Recent Examples on the Web Marugame Udon is commemorating Tsukimi, the traditional Japanese harvest moon-viewing festival, with $5 bowls of udon and a haiku contest through Oct. 3. Jeremy Hallock, Dallas News, 17 Sep. 2021 At worst, martial arts films have been filled with nonsensical haiku poems, illogical plot lines, bizarre villains, and cheap unrealistic gore. Jason Stahl, SPIN, 4 Jan. 2022 But a traditional haiku — a three-line poem with five syllables on the first line, seven on the second and five on the third — is an especially fun challenge. Washington Post, 3 Jan. 2022 While other basic forms of poetry, such as the sonnet, ode and haiku, are borrowed from other countries, the limerick is an original English creation and the most quoted of all verse forms in our language. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 Dec. 2021 The quotations from Crane’s harsh, haiku-like poems spit out from Auster’s gently loquacious pages in unmissable disjunction. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 18 Oct. 2021 So, writing haiku provides a degree of consolation. Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2021 And there’s also a haiku contest, with rules forthcoming. Jeremy Hallock, Dallas News, 17 Sep. 2021 This week: Create a haiku containing a pun or similar wordplay, as in the Week 1317 runner-up above, one of the few inking entries that week that weren’t (alas) out of date. Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'haiku.' 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 haiku

1902, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for haiku


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haikwan tael

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Last Updated

22 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Haiku.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haiku. Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for haiku


hai·​ku | \ ˈhī-ˌkü How to pronounce haiku (audio) \
plural haiku

Kids Definition of haiku

: a Japanese poem or form of poetry without rhyme having three lines with the first and last lines having five syllables and the middle having seven

More from Merriam-Webster on haiku

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for haiku

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about haiku


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