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[sam-pan] /ˈsæm pæn/
any of various small boats of the Far East, as one propelled by a single scull over the stern and provided with a roofing of mats.
Origin of sampan
First recorded in 1610-20, sampan is from the Chinese word sānbǎn three-plank (boat), or < cognate dial. forms Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for sampan
Historical Examples
  • "We are men of his company and we have news for him," returned the speaker in the sampan.

    The Monster Men Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Twenty-five bags of rice would be coming off in a sampan directly, for stores.

    Typhoon Joseph Conrad
  • Before the sampan passed out of the lagoon into the creek he lifted his eyes.

    Tales of Unrest Joseph Conrad
  • The juragan of the boat said sulkily, "We will cook in the sampan, and sleep on the water."

    Tales of Unrest Joseph Conrad
  • The heads were all put in the sampan, and they made a full load for it.

    Four Young Explorers Oliver Optic
  • As the sampan receded from the saurians, they approached the bait.

    Four Young Explorers Oliver Optic
  • It is about my bedtime, and I think I will go to my sampan and retire.

    Four Young Explorers Oliver Optic
  • Morris shouted that the sampan was in the channel, and the Blanchita moved into it.

    Four Young Explorers Oliver Optic
  • It would be impossible to force the sampan through this tangle.

    Trapped by Malays George Manville Fenn
  • The sampan was reached and diverted just before she swung athwart our bows.

British Dictionary definitions for sampan


any small skiff, widely used in the Orient, that is propelled by oars or a scull
Word Origin
C17: from Chinese san pan, from san three + pan board
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for sampan

light Chinese boat, 1610s, from Chinese san pan, literally "three boards," from san "three" + pan "plank."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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