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[tahng-kuh] /ˈtɑŋ kə/
noun, plural tankas, tanka. Prosody.
a Japanese poem consisting of 31 syllables in 5 lines, with 5 syllables in the first and third lines and 7 in the others.
Origin of tanka
1915-20; < Japanese < Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinese duǎn short + song; cf. renga Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for tanka
Historical Examples
  • Sooner or later this crystallized into what is called a tanka or short ode.

    Japanese Prints John Gould Fletcher
  • Typical of this kind of painting are the pictures of tanka burning the Image.

    Zen Buddhism Arthur Waley
  • By dropping the "a" before "tanka" we have changed the name to Big Water.

  • The concluding hemistich, whereby the hokku becomes the tanka, is existent in the writer's mind, but never uttered.

    Japanese Prints John Gould Fletcher
  • Some one would utter the first three lines of a tanka and some one else would cap the composition by adding the last two.

    Japanese Prints John Gould Fletcher
  • The real genius is to be found in the tanka, a poem of five lines or phrases and thirty-one syllables.

    Myths & Legends of Japan

    F. Hadland (Frederick Hadland) Davis
  • The tiresome habit of enumerating a woman's charms, either briefly or at length, is happily an impossibility in the tanka.

    Myths & Legends of Japan

    F. Hadland (Frederick Hadland) Davis
  • Such couplets were called shi to distinguish them from the pure Japanese uta or tanka.

  • One night tanka, a Zen priest, stayed as a guest at an ordinary Buddhist monastery.

    Zen Buddhism Arthur Waley
British Dictionary definitions for tanka


noun (pl) -kas, -ka
a Japanese verse form consisting of five lines, the first and third having five syllables, the others seven
Word Origin
C19: from Japanese, from tan short + ka verse
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 tanka

form of Japanese verse, from Japanese tanka, from tan "short" + ka "song."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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