I love words, the study of their origins, old words, new words, and foreign words introduced into the English mainstream.  Such an up-and-coming word is ‘shibui.’  I do hope that it will become mainstream along with other words that have flowed into the English language.  I was delighted to find the word in Wikipedia, and I include it here for all to enjoy!


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Shibumi is also the name of a book by Trevanian.

Shibui (渋い, adjective), or shibumi (渋み, noun), is a Japanese word which refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. Like other Japanese aesthetic terms, such as iki and wabi-sabi, shibui can apply to a wide variety of subjects, not just art or fashion.

Originating in the Muromachi period (1333-1568) as shibushi, the term originally referred to a sour or astringent taste, such as that of an unripe persimmon. Shibui maintains that literal meaning still, and remains the antonym of amai (甘い), meaning ‘sweet’.

However, by the beginnings of the Edo period (1603-1867), the term had gradually begun to be used to refer to a pleasing aesthetic. The people of Edo expressed their tastes in using this term to refer to anything from song to fashion to craftsmanship that was beautiful by being understated, or by being precisely what it was meant to be and not elaborated upon. Essentially, the aesthetic ideal of shibumi seeks out events, performances, people or objects that are beautiful in a direct and simple way, without being flashy.

Expert singers, actors, potters, and artists of all other sorts were often said to be shibui; their expertise caused them to do things beautifully without making them excessive or gaudy. Today, sometimes baseball players are even said to be shibui when they contribute to the overall success of the team without doing anything to make themselves stand out individually.

The concept of shibui was introduced to the West in 1960, in two special publications of the American magazine House Beautiful.

In James A. Michener’s "Iberia" the word ‘shibui’ is referenced as follows: "The Japanese have a word which summarizes all the best in Japanese life, yet it has no explanation and cannot be translated. It is the word ‘shibui,’ and the best approximation to its meaning is ‘acerb good taste.’"

[edit] Reference

  • Ueda, Makoto (1985). "Shibui." Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
  • Michener, James A. (1968). "Iberia." Spanish Travels and Reflections. A Fawcett Crest Book reprinted by arrangement with Random House, Inc.

[edit] See also