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 In some cases, the poems express what seem to be truly personal cris de coeur, even if the imagery employed — gardens, the breeze at dawn, tears, wine and roses — is as conventional as that found in a Petrarchan sonnet or a Japanese haiku. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "At last, we hear the beautiful — and sometimes bawdy — Persian poems by women," 23 Oct. 2019 Bradfield’s style of prose poetry operates similarly, with haiku-like poetry imbedded into blocks of description, narrative, or thoughtful questioning. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, "Poet and naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield turns her vision south," 15 Dec. 2019 Muscular and lyrical, her lean lines explore the wide world with a haiku-style simplicity that belies the force of what flows between, behind, and under her words. BostonGlobe.com, "Matthew Carter ’s Top Ten (minus one)," 18 Oct. 2019 In the midst of all that, writing haiku may have been his sole consolation. Haruki Murakami, The New Yorker, "Abandoning a Cat," 30 Sep. 2019 His haiku and tanka translations influenced Pound, Rexroth, and others. Jonathan Dee, The New Yorker, "Why Lafcadio Hearn’s Ghost Stories Still Haunt Us," 9 Sep. 2019 The event is open to anyone interested in learning about the modern haiku, senryu and haibun types of poetry, focusing on contemporary free verse forms, not the familiar five-seven-five-syllable structure. Carole Goldberg, courant.com, "Write Stuff: ‘Sex and the City’ author takes on life over 50," 7 Aug. 2019 Ma has long been part of Japanese design culture, from 11th-century Zen gardens through the postwar architecture of Tadao Ando, whose concrete buildings have been compared to haiku, with the empty space as important as the thing itself. Toby Skinner, Condé Nast Traveler, "This Japan Cruise Might Just Be the Most Stunning Thing at Sea," 27 June 2019 Anniversary festivities honoring Sho-Fu-En will include pop-up tea ceremonies, a haiku tree and Japanese vegetables in the potager, the kitchen garden also tended by Kondo. Colleen Smith, The Denver Post, "Denver’s oasis has been tucked away in the Denver Botanic Gardens for 40 years," 29 June 2019

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

18 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Haiku.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haiku?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=h&file=haiku001. Accessed 25 January 2020.

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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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about haiku

Comments on haiku

What made you want to look up haiku? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


dull or mediocre

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