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

Definition of shamisen

: a 3-stringed Japanese musical instrument resembling a banjo

Examples of shamisen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web 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, "Westworld: A Cut Above," 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, "The truth about modern day geishas," 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, "Nihon Buyō Dance," 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

Statistics for shamisen

Cite this Entry

“Shamisen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.

Comments on shamisen

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things 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!