sam·​pan ˈsam-ˌpan How to pronounce sampan (audio)
: a flat-bottomed skiff used in eastern Asia and usually propelled by two short oars

Examples of sampan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Hong Kong: Hong Kong Harbor, one of the world’s most scenic, rewards passengers with vistas of skyscrapers, mountains, ferries and sampans. Georgina Cruz, Miami Herald, 30 Jan. 2024 Malay, Chinese and Indian laborers did laundry, steered sampan boats and cleared land for the White military members. Lilit Marcus, CNN, 16 Sep. 2022 Max, 6, my youngest, bolted past the staff lined up to greet us and planted his nose on the lee-side picture window to watch a woman in a conical hat haul a net of glittering fish onto her sampan. Laura Dannen Redman, Condé Nast Traveler, 20 July 2018 Housed in a pastel-yellow colonial building opposite a 16th-century church, its entrance is flanked by tall vases, depicting sampan gliding between karst hills. The Economist, 19 May 2018 The petite young woman who rowed our sampan had powerful, broad shoulders and tough, worn hands gripping the oars. Diana Lambdin Meyer,, 9 May 2017 Small sampan boats, ox carts, tuk-tuks, bicycle rickshaws, and your own two feet get you through two countries heavy with history. Veronica Stoddart, Condé Nast Traveler, 31 Mar. 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sampan.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Chinese (Guangdong) sàambáan, from sàam three + báan board, plank

First Known Use

1620, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sampan was in 1620

Dictionary Entries Near sampan

Cite this Entry

“Sampan.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


sam·​pan ˈsam-ˌpan How to pronounce sampan (audio)
: a flat-bottomed Chinese boat usually moved by oars

More from Merriam-Webster on sampan

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