a guitarlike Japanese musical instrument having an extremely long neck and three strings, played with a plectrum.

Origin of samisen

1610–20; < Japanese < Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinese sānxia three-string banjo Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for samisen

Historical Examples of samisen

  • One took her samisen and sang; never did I listen to anything sweeter.

    Lafcadio Hearn

    Nina H. Kennard

  • And you could not play the samisen because I was in your arms.

    The Way of the Gods

    John Luther Long

  • The street of the geisha is full of music, for they play the samisen there all day long.

  • She played the samisen, the kotto, the biwa, and the small hand-drum.

  • Sawaichi was a honest, good-natured fellow, who earned a bare living by giving lessons on the koto and samisen.

    Romances of Old Japan

    Yei Theodora Ozaki

British Dictionary definitions for samisen



a variant of shamisen
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 samisen

Japanese three-stringed instrument, 1610s, from Chinese san-hsien, literally "three-strings," from san "three" + hsien "string."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper