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koan

[koh-ahn]
noun, plural ko·ans, ko·an. Zen.
  1. a nonsensical or paradoxical question to a student for which an answer is demanded, the stress of meditation on the question often being illuminating.
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Origin of koan

1945–50; < Japanese kōan, earlier koũ-an < Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinese gōngàn public proposal
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for koan

koan

noun
  1. (in Zen Buddhism) a problem or riddle that admits no logical solution
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Word Origin for koan

from Japanese
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

Word Origin and History for koan

n.

Zen paradox, 1946, from Japanese ko "public" + an "matter for thought."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper