noun, plural tan·kas, tan·ka. 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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tanka

Historical Examples of tanka

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for tanka


noun plural -kas or -ka

a Japanese verse form consisting of five lines, the first and third having five syllables, the others seven

Word Origin for tanka

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

Word Origin and History for tanka

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper