zai·​bat·​su | \ ˌzī-ˈbät-ˌsü How to pronounce zaibatsu (audio) \

Definition of zaibatsu

: a powerful financial and industrial conglomerate of Japan

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Did You Know?

Zaibatsu is a compound formed by the Japanese words zai, meaning "money" or "wealth," and batsu, meaning "clique" or "clan." The word refers to one of several large capitalist enterprises that developed in Japan after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and that expanded rapidly during World War I. Each zaibatsu was typically organized around a single family and controlled interests in multiple areas, such as mining, foreign trade, textiles, insurance, and especially banks. While zaibatsus were dissolved during the Allied occupation of Japan following World War II (around the time the word entered English), many of the individual companies that comprised them continued to be managed as they had been, and the term has survived.

Examples of zaibatsu in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Like the chaebol, zaibatsu were family controlled conglomerates that dominated Japan’s economy until they were disbanded by the U.S. after World War II. Washington Post, "South Korea’s Chaebol," 30 Aug. 2019

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

First Known Use of zaibatsu

1947, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for zaibatsu

Japanese zai money, wealth + batsu clique, clan

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The first known use of zaibatsu was in 1947

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Cite this Entry

“Zaibatsu.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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