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What Is a Ronin?


A ronin or masterless samurai lunges with his sword, 1869 woodblock print.

A ronin with sword and naginata, 1869. Print by Yoshitoshi Taiso.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.

A ronin was a samurai warrior in feudal Japan without a master or lord (daimyo).

The term "ronin" was used for outlaws and wanderers, men who had been expelled from their clans or had renounced their lords.

Some samurai also became ronin through no fault of their own, upon the death of their daimyo. This was the situation of the famous 47 Ronin, who avenged their master's death according to the code of bushido, and then committed seppuku.

The word "ronin" is borrowed from Chinese, and means "drifter" or "lawless person."

Pronunciation: "ROH-neen"

"The 47 Ronin are idolized today in Japan for their courage and absolute loyalty to their master, even after his death."

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