ko·​an | \ ˈkō-ˌän How to pronounce koan (audio) \

Definition of koan

: a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment

Examples of koan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web His answer is also a Zen koan that tells a lot about him: Walking functions as a metaphor for life. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Escaping Coronavirus Lockdown Through a Stranger’s Solitary Walks on YouTube," 9 Apr. 2020 Officials and researchers alike were speaking in paradoxes akin to Zen koans. Kitty Morgan, SFChronicle.com, "In coronavirus pandemic’s limbo, the only thing certain is more uncertainty," 19 Apr. 2020 There is plenty of time to ponder koans these days at the animal park, where the coronavirus pandemic has left the sea lions, and the rest of its roughly 6,000 creatures, without an audience. New York Times, "Coronavirus Live Updates: Global Cases Exceed 1 Million," 3 Apr. 2020 But there is enough evidence to suggest this isn’t a koan—an unanswerable Zen riddle. Nick Ravo, WSJ, "A New Way for Stock Traders to Rebalance: Meditation," 7 Feb. 2020 Its underlying nutritional philosophy is similar to the famous koan from nutritionist Michael Pollan: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Megan Mccarthy, USA TODAY, "I tried weight-loss app Noom for three months—here's what happened," 9 Jan. 2020 So come for the friction-free, scrubbed-clean storytelling, the zen koans about racing and manifesting and loyalty; stay for the series of very good boys (Parker, Butler, Solar, and Orbit among them) who play Enzo. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, "The Art of Racing in the Rain is earnest, floppy-eared family entertainment," 6 Aug. 2019 For market watchers and finance industry savants, Greenspan was a human koan upon which they were expected to puzzle out their own economic enlightenment. Elizabeth Spiers, The New Republic, "Beyond Pelosi," 24 July 2019 Physicist Aguirre borrows from the Zen Buddhist tradition of koans, or contemplative riddles, to present some of his field’s most esoteric concepts. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "The Best Science Books to Read For Summer 2019," 7 May 2019

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

1945, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for koan

Japanese kōan, from public + an proposition

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Cite this Entry

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

More from Merriam-Webster on koan

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about koan

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