zai·​bat·​su ˌzī-ˈbät-ˌsü How to pronounce zaibatsu (audio)
: a powerful financial and industrial conglomerate of Japan

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, 30 Aug. 2019

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

Word History


Japanese zai money, wealth + batsu clique, clan

First Known Use

1947, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of zaibatsu was in 1947


Dictionary Entries Near zaibatsu

Cite this Entry

“Zaibatsu.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on zaibatsu

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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