Definition of haiku
Words nearby haiku
MORE ABOUT HAIKU
What does haiku mean?
Haiku is a traditional style of Japanese poetry in which 17 syllables are written in three lines, with the first line containing five syllables, the second line containing seven, and the third line containing five.
The word haiku is also commonly used to refer to a poem written in this way. The plural is haiku, though it’s common to see people casually refer to haikus.
Haiku are poems. (five syllables)
Haiku always have three lines (seven syllables)
They often don’t rhyme. (five syllables)
Traditional Japanese haiku often use natural subjects or imagery. This often involves using specific words that represent the seasons.
However, for English speakers, haiku has become a popular style of poetry that can be about anything. Many people use haiku as a form for creating funny, entertaining, or absurd poems, using the 5-7-5 syllable format as a kind of challenge or guiding principle.
Why is haiku important?
The form of poetry we call haiku was developed in the 1600s, but it wasn’t called haiku until later. The earliest records of the word haiku in English come from the 1890s. In Japanese, hai means “amusement” and ku means “verse.”
The format was first used in the opening lines of much longer oral poems known as renga. It was developed in the 1600s by Matsuo Basho, who is considered a master of haiku. Many Japanese poets used his poems as a standard for haiku poetry in the following centuries. By the 1800s, haiku had become a separate form of poetry.
Most Japanese haiku can’t keep the traditional 5-7-5 structure when translated into English, such as this translation of a haiku by Basho:
The old pond!
A frog jumps in—
the sound of water
In fact, many haiku do not follow the 5-7-5 structure even in written Japanese because the Japanese language doesn’t count syllables the same way English does. Still, most English speakers follow the 5-7-5 structure. This structure is often thought to add to the beauty, humor, or silliness of the poem.
Did you know ... ?
Japanese haiku usually have a kigo, a word or phrase that is directly connected to a season in Japanese culture. Over the years, Japanese translators have compiled lists of hundreds of kigo used in haiku and their traditional meanings in Japanese culture.
What are real-life examples of haiku?
Haiku is rooted in Japanese culture but has become popular in many cultures. Traditional Japanese haiku are often about nature, but haiku can be about any topic.
I drank from the cup, the glass
That had the spider
— Kenton Oliver 🇨🇦 (@ataraxypoetry) August 11, 2020
— Karen "The Dark Angel of Editing" Conlin (@GramrgednAngel) March 2, 2017
Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry that often uses imagery based on:
A. outer space
B. nature and the seasons
D. Japanese warriors
How to use haiku in a sentence
I haven’t written a haiku to describe my feeling going into COP26 in Glasgow.Voices from around the world on what’s at stake at COP26|Brady Dennis, Sarah Kaplan, William Booth, Samantha Schmidt|October 28, 2021|Washington Post
One of the project’s most innovative efforts has been putting haiku on movie marquees.Drew Pisarra’s ‘dangerously funny and queerly inventive brain’|Kathi Wolfe|July 23, 2021|Washington Blade
They only want a few words, more a haiku than a work of fiction.
It made no sense, except maybe as something he could customize as The Bieber Haiku.
British Dictionary definitions for haiku
Word Origin for haiku
Cultural definitions for haiku
A form of Japanese poetry. A haiku expresses a single feeling or impression and contains three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, respectively.