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or shōgun

[shoh-guh n, -guhn] /ˈʃoʊ gən, -gʌn/
noun, Japanese History
the title applied to the chief military commanders from about the 8th century a.d. to the end of the 12th century, then applied to the hereditary officials who governed Japan, with the emperor as nominal ruler, until 1868, when the shogunate was terminated and the ruling power was returned to the emperor.
Origin of shogun
1605-15; < Japanese shōgun, earlier shaũgun < Middle Chinese, equivalent, to Chinese jiāngjūn literally, lead the army
Related forms
shogunal, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for shoguns
Historical Examples
  • The shoguns were military rulers and a number of them were men of great force and executive ability.

    The Old World and Its Ways William Jennings Bryan
  • Thus, in the days of the shoguns' power, a Hatamoto who had divorced his wife reported the matter to the Shogun.

    Tales of Old Japan Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford
  • In Japan the emperors lived in retirement, and it was the dynasties of shoguns or generals that suffered change.

  • The younger brother of Minamoto no Yoritomo, who first established the government of the shoguns.

    Tales of Old Japan Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford
  • Near at hand are the temples and tombs of the six shoguns of the Tokugawa family, buried in Uyeno Park.

    The Critic in the Orient George Hamlin Fitch
  • The shoguns fortified their castles and required the feudal lords to keep headquarters in Tokyo.

    The Old World and Its Ways William Jennings Bryan
  • See note on the tombs of the shoguns, at the end of the story.

    Tales of Old Japan Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford
  • The change began in the appointment by Sujin of shoguns or generals over the military departments of the government.

  • After the battle of Fushimi, and the abolition of the Shogunate, he accompanied the last of the shoguns in his retirement.

    Tales of Old Japan Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford
  • Eventually all the military power fell into the hands of the shoguns, and the mikado was seen no more at the head of his army.

British Dictionary definitions for shoguns


noun (Japanese history)
(from 794 ad) a chief military commander
(from about 1192 to 1867) any of a line of hereditary military dictators who relegated the emperors to a position of purely theoretical supremacy
Derived Forms
shogunal, adjective
Word Origin
C17: from Japanese, from Chinese chiang chün general, from chiang to lead + chün army
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 shoguns



1610s, "hereditary commander of a Japanese army," from Japanese (sei-i-tai) shogun "(barbarian-subduing) chief" (late 12c.), sound-substitution for Chinese chiang chiin, literally "lead army."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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shoguns in Culture
shoguns [(shoh-guhnz)]

Japanese military leaders who ruled the country from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries. There was still an emperor in Japan under the shoguns, but he was reduced to a mere figurehead.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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