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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Did You Know?

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 Regularly in their company are the emotionally needy Stupid Horse (J.D. Witherspoon), a horse, and the tracksuit-wearing, haiku-declaiming King Yeti (Andre Pascoe), a human. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, "Meet the mysterious cartoonist behind ‘the weirdest thing on Adult Swim’," 13 Dec. 2020 Most Western accounts of fugu, like this one, resort to quoting haiku to try to give the fish cultural context. New York Times, "The Appealing and Potentially Lethal Delicacy That Is Fugu," 4 Dec. 2020 Netflix, Roku haiku, one patient Basho letter at a time. Nicole Krauss, Harper's Magazine, "Drawing From Life," 24 Nov. 2020 Whereas many menus read like haiku during the pandemic, this list, from chefs Lisa and Peter Chang, is as long and labor-intensive as ever. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, "If family-style takeout is on the menu, these 3 restaurants have a whole lot to offer," 4 Sep. 2020 While most were decent, some of the one-star lodgings were noisy and squalid, as described by one haiku: Fleas and lice, the horse pissing next to my pillow. Hiroshi Okamoto, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Way of the Shogun," 9 July 2020 The headlines and front-page stories contain phrases that read like catastrophic haiku. Cynthia Gorney, National Geographic, "In lightning-struck California, the smoke is now scarier than the pandemic," 21 Aug. 2020 Simply put, a haiku is an unrhymed Japanese poem spread across three lines that contain five, seven and five syllables, respectively. Jennifer Nalewicki, Smithsonian Magazine, "This Sound Artist Is Asking People to Record COVID-19 Haikus," 10 Apr. 2020 Both Wright and Kerouac were drawn to haiku as an art of improvisation. Christopher Benfey, The New York Review of Books, "Richard Wright, Masaoka Shiki, and the Haiku of Confinement," 25 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for haiku

Time Traveler

The first known use of haiku was in 1902

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Statistics for haiku

Last Updated

23 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Haiku.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haiku. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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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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