From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


English Wikipedia has an article on:

Alternative forms[edit]


From Japanese (ぜん) (zen), from Middle Chinese (MC dzyen), an abbreviation of 禪那 (MC dzyen na), from Sanskrit ध्यान (dhyāna, a type of meditation). Doublet of dhyana and chan.


  • (file)

Proper noun[edit]


  1. (religion) A school of Mahayana Buddhism characterized by sudden enlightenment achieved by indirect means and principally associated with China and Japan.
    • 1953, Richard Francis Carrington Hull translating Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery, p. 3:
      For Orientals these mysterious formulae are clear and familiar truths, but for us they are completely bewildering... Dhyana Buddhism, which is known in Japan as "Zen"... is not speculation at all but immediate experience of what, as the bottomless ground of Being, cannot be apprehended by intellectual means, and cannot be conceived or interpreted even after the most unequivocal and incontestable experiences: one knows it by not knowing it.
    • 1974, Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, page 235:
      Philosophical mysticism, the idea that truth is indefinable and can be apprehended only by nonrational means, has been with us since the beginning of history. It's the basis of Zen practice.
    • 2003, Brad Warner, Hardcore Zen, page 25:
      While Christianity teaches that man was expelled from the Garden of Eden, Zen teaches that we are living in paradise right now, even amid all the shit that's going down. This world is the Pure Land. This world is paradise. In fact, this world is better than paradise—but all we can do is piss and moan, and look around for something better.

Usage notes[edit]

In reference to a specific lineage of Buddhist teachers, Zen is sometimes inclusive of its Chinese development and masters and sometimes distinguished as the particularly Japanese form of Chan, from the modern Mandarin pronunciation of the same character.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



Zen (uncountable)

  1. Alternative letter-case form of zen: (religion) enlightenment and (informal) mindful action, instruction, or behavior considered similar to Zen.
    • 1934, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, page 102:
      Hōyen... used to produce his own hand and ask his disciples, why it was called a hand? When we know the reason, there is satori and we have Zen.

Usage notes[edit]

Similar to the proper noun, Zen’s use as a synonym for enlightenment is sometimes limited to the specific form acquired through Zen meditation. In general application, Zen can carry orientalizing overtones, particularly of smug superiority over conventional western thought. It is therefore also applied sarcastically to disparage shallow understanding, feigned wisdom, or bullshitting.


Zen (comparative more Zen, superlative most Zen)

  1. (religion) Of or related to Zen Buddhism.
    Zen meditation
    Zen monk
    Zen master
  2. (colloquial) Alternative letter-case form of zen.
    • 2010, Martin Avery et al., Zen Forest:
      "It sounds very Zen," I said. "A log cabin with no logs."
    • 2020, N. K. Jemisin, The City We Became, Orbit, page 431:
      Part of him is still so much the newbie, amazed to find this place of sand and sun stuck onto the ass end of the greatest city in the world, but the rest of him has relaxed into acceptance already. He's Zen like that.

See also[edit]



German Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia de



Zen m (strong, genitive Zens, no plural)

  1. (Buddhism) zen (denomination of Buddhism)


Further reading[edit]

  • Zen” in Duden online


Proper noun[edit]

Zen m

  1. (Buddhism) Zen




  1. Rōmaji transcription of ぜん