sham·​i·​sen | \ ˈsha-mə-ˌsen How to pronounce shamisen (audio) \
variants: or less commonly \ ˈsa-​mə-​ˌsen How to pronounce shamisen (audio) \

Definition of shamisen

: a 3-stringed Japanese musical instrument resembling a banjo

Examples of shamisen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The music is grand and has an anthemic quality to it, and the composers include instruments that are seldom used in games, especially indie titles like this one, like the shamisen and saxophone. Jonathan Peltz, Wired, 7 Apr. 2021 Much of the excitement of this hour—both for viewers and the characters themselves—was in recognizing the clone character under the pancake makeup, or in hearing a familiar tune rendered in shamisen. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 20 May 2018 During the course of an evening, a geisha or meikko engages in skillful conversation before transitioning to play a three-stringed instrument called a shamisen. Sery Kim, Fox News, 15 June 2017 These delicate, highly ritualized pieces are performed in elaborate costume and makeup, to the accompaniment of flute, drums, chanting, and the banjo-like shamisen. The New Yorker, 31 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shamisen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of shamisen

1864, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for shamisen


Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About shamisen

Time Traveler for shamisen

Time Traveler

The first known use of shamisen was in 1864

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near shamisen




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for shamisen

Cite this Entry

“Shamisen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!