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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1896, from Japanese, popular theater (as opposed to shadow puppet-plays or lyrical Noh dramas), literally "art of song and dance," from ka "song" + bu "dance" + ki "art, skill" [Barnhart, OED]. Alternative etymology (in Webster's) is from nominal form of kabuku "to be divergent, to deviate," from early opinion of this form of drama. Since c.1650, all parts are played by males.


n. A form of Japanese theatre in which elaborately costumed male performers use stylized movements, dances, and songs in order to enact tragedies and comedies.


is a classical Japanese dance- drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.

The individual kanji, from left to right, mean sing , dance , and skill . Kabuki is therefore sometimes translated as "the art of singing and dancing". These are, however, ateji characters which do not reflect actual etymology. The kanji of 'skill' generally refers to a performer in kabuki theatre. Since the word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning "to lean" or "to be out of the ordinary", kabuki can be interpreted as "avant-garde" or "bizarre" theatre. The expression kabukimono referred originally to those who were bizarrely dressed and swaggered on a street.

Kabuki (comics)

Kabuki is a comic book series created by artist and writer David Mack, first published in 1994 by Caliber Press and later by Image Comics. It is a story of an assassin who struggles with her identity in near-future Japan. The 2009 miniseries, Kabuki: The Alchemy, was published by Marvel Comics under its imprint Icon Comics. The series has been collected into several trade paperbacks, which include several one-shots and spin-off limited series.

Kabuki (disambiguation)

Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theater.

Kabuki may also refer to:

  • Kabuki dance, a term used by American political pundits as a synonym for political posturing
  • Kabuki (comics), a comic book series by artist and writer David Mack
  • Kabuki (manga), a manga by Yukari Hashida
  • Kabuki brush, a make-up brush
  • "Kabuki", a song from the album Adult by Tokyo Jihen
  • Kamen Rider Kabuki, A character from Kamen Rider Hibiki
  • Akihisa Mera (born 1948), a Japanese professional wrestler best known as The Great Kabuki
Kabuki (manga)

is a Japanese manga written and illustrated by Yukari Hashida. It is licensed in North America by Digital Manga Publishing, which released the first volume through its imprint June, on 9 September 2008, the second volume on 15 February 2010, and the third volume 23 February 2011.

Usage examples of "kabuki".

Tiresias managed to look at him, at his immaculately white kabuki dollface and was not shocked.

Kabuki was the essence of dramatic art: The acting was highly stylized, all emotions exaggerated.

Lavish gifts, however, were almost unheard of, so I'd accumulated nothing more over the years than a few scrolls, inkstones, and bowls, as well as a collection of-stereoscopic photos of famous views, with a lovely viewer made of sterling silver, which the Kabuki actor Onoe Yoegoro XVII had given to me.

Because Noh is a very ancient art that has always been patronized by the Imperial court, dancers in Gion consider their art superior to the school of dance practiced in the Ponto-cho district across the river, which derives from Kabuki.

Nor do I take part in tea ceremonies, meet with geishas, attend Kabuki plays, watch sumo wrestling, or believe in the superiority of our native culture.