from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A flatbottom Asian skiff usually propelled by two oars.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A flat-bottomed Chinese wooden boat propelled by two oars.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A Chinese boat from twelve to fifteen feet long, covered with a house, and sometimes used as a permanent habitation on the inland waters.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small boat used on the coasts of China, Japan, and Java, corresponding to the skiff of Europe and America, and propelled with either sculls or a sail. It is sometimes provided with a fore-and-aft roofing of mats, affording shelter and habitation for a family.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an Asian skiff usually propelled by two oars


Chinese (Cantonese) saam-paán, equivalent to Chinese (Mandarin) sān, three + bacaron.gifn, board.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Sinitic 舢舨 (shānbǎn) (Wiktionary)


  • But the sampan was already by us and wasn't stopping.

    Tour of Duty

  • The surf, through which it is carried in an open boat, called a sampan lonchore, renders such accidents unavoidable.

    The History of Sumatra Containing An Account Of The Government, Laws, Customs And Manners Of The Native Inhabitants

  • The word "sampan" literally means "three planks" in Cantonese, from the words sam (三, three) and pan (板, plank). [

    Answerbag: Latest Questions in Question Categories

  • From the depot he hurried through the quaint Japanese streets to the harbor, and hired a sampan boatman to put him aboard a certain vessel whose familiar rigging had quickly caught his eye.

    The Lost Poacher

  • And this was one gale of three in the course of those eight days in the sampan.


  • The point is that I was in an open boat, a sampan, on a rocky coast where there were no light-houses and where the tides rip.


  • The next day, when Alf started to go ashore, he found himself surrounded by shouting and gesticulating, though very respectful, sampan men, all extraordinarily anxious to have him for a passenger.

    In Yeddo Bay

  • A dozen sampan men and boys hailed Alf and offered their services.

    In Yeddo Bay

  • And for the rest of the Annie Mine's stay in port, the sampan men refused money at Alf Davis's hand.

    In Yeddo Bay

  • He also said he knew the sampan men to be natural-born robbers, but that so long as they robbed within the law he was powerless.

    In Yeddo Bay

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  • "The sampan pilot from Siogama to Ishinomaki, the postman galloping from Kyoto to Ogaki, what do they travel but time?" from "Fifty-seven Views of Fujiyama" by Guy Davenport

    January 19, 2010