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[bon-sahy, -zahy, bohn-, bon-sahy, -zahy, bohn-] /bɒnˈsaɪ, -ˈzaɪ, boʊn-, ˈbɒn saɪ, -zaɪ, ˈboʊn-/
noun, plural bonsai.
a tree or shrub that has been dwarfed, as by pruning the roots and pinching, and is grown in a pot or other container and trained to produce a desired shape or effect.
the art or hobby of developing and growing such a plant or plants.
Origin of bonsai
1945-50; < Japanese bon-sai tray planting < Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinese pén tray + zāi plant, shoot
Can be confused
banzai, bonsai. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for bonsai


noun (pl) -sai
the art of growing dwarfed ornamental varieties of trees or shrubs in small shallow pots or trays by selective pruning, etc
a tree or shrub grown by this method
Word Origin
C20: Japanese: plant grown in a pot, from bon basin, bowl + sai to plant
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
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Word Origin and History for bonsai

1914, from Japanese bon "basin, pot" + sai "to plant."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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