Definitions

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

  • n. A small toggle, often in the form of a carved ivory or wood figure, used to secure a purse or container suspended on a cord from the sash of a kimono.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a small, often collectible, artistic carving characterized by an opening or two small holes (紐通し (himotōshi)), most commonly made of wood or ivory, used as a fob at the end of a cord attached to a suspended pouch containing pens, medicines, or tobacco. Netsuke originated in feudal Japan in the late 16th and 17th centuries.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. In Japanese costume and decorative art, a small object carved in wood, ivory, bone, or horn, or wrought in metal, and pierced with holes for cords by which it is connected, for convenience, with the inro, the smoking pouch (tabako-ire), and similar objects carried in the girdle. It is now much used on purses sold in Europe and America.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small knob or button, of horn, wood, ivory, or other material, often elaborately carved or inlaid, lacquered, or decorated with enamel, used by the Japanese as a bob or toggle in connection with a cord for suspending a tobacco-pouch, inro, or similar article in the belt or girdle.

Etymologies

Japanese.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • Seen here, a "frustrated rat catcher" netsuke from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Link

    Boing Boing

  • A netsuke is a "small, tough explosion of exactitude".

    The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal

  • Of the first kind are the beautiful bronze figures of the Buddha, like the Kamakura Buddha, fifty feet high and ninety-seven feet round, in whose face all that is grand and noble lies sleeping, the living representation of Nirvana; and of the second, those odd little ornaments known as netsuke, comical carvings for the most part, grotesque figures of men and monkeys, saints and sinners, gods and devils.

    The Soul of the Far East

  • Of course the netsuke are the hook on which the real story is told.

  • The netsuke are the beginning and happy ending of the story.

  • Jill Abramson, executive editor, was partial to "The Hare With Amber Eyes," by Edmund de Waal (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a descendant of a European banking family whose vast wealth was eventually whittled down to 264 small wood and ivory carvings (known as netsuke).

    NYT > Home Page

  • Neither his business career nor his philanthropic work defined Floyd Segel, however, since he was an avid and wide-ranging collector who built world-class collections of jade, "netsuke" (miniature Japanese sculpture), Chinese porcelain,

    Aspen Times - Top Stories

  • Neither his business career nor his philanthropic work defined Floyd Segel, however, since he was an avid and wide-ranging collector, who built world-class collections of jade, "netsuke"

    Glenwood Springs Post Independent - Top Stories

  • Charles bought the netsuke during the craze for Japonisme.

    The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal

  • Afterwards, they examined the netsuke, one by one.

    The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal

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