The definition of wabi-sabi

April 7, 2016

Written By

Tabitha Dumas

It’s fun to say. Try it! Wabi-sabi. “wah-bee, sah-bee.” Continuing in defining some of my favorite words and concepts for you (my last one was puttering), here’s

the definition of wabi-sabi.

Read the whole entry on Wikipedia here.

Wabi-sabi is Japanese in origin and is centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.

The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”

It’s wildflowers from the side of the road instead of the daisies dyed neon.

wabi-sabi and not wabi-sabi. Definition by (1)

Wabi-sabi is handmade, not mass produced.

Like these imperfect soaps I bought by the pound from Verano Bathery in Tempe, Arizona. They’re gorgeous, especially because of their quirks and irregularities. I’m addicted. 

Wabi-sabi is…

  • wrinkles, both on clothes and on faces
  • a complex wine
  • jeans with holes (worn from hard work, not to look cool)
  • an abandoned barn
  • a bird’s nest (the kind you find after a wind storm, not the kind at Michael’s)
  • your children’s rocks collected on nature walks (or from parking lots–see below)
  • fingerprints on the window
  • wilted roses
The definition of Wabi Sabi by

Wilted roses are wabi sabi

  • vintage linens with stains
  • burned candles
  • a rusty spicket
  • dirty fingernails
  • lumpy homemade cookies
  • flea markets
  • fog
  • messy faces
  • nature treasures
The definition of wabi-sabi from

“A treasure for you, Mommy.”

The chip in your wedding china? That’s wabi-sabi.

It’s a sign of a wonderful meal meal with friends that got a little rowdy. A reminder that precious items are meant to be enjoyed, not preserved. It’s acknowledging that everything is in a constant state of decay. And it’s part of the rhythm of life.

Wabi-sabi is the art of living in the moment, knowing nothing lasts forever.


The definition of wabi-sabi- beauty in imperfection. From


There’s more to it than that…which is precisely why it resonates so much with me. 

It goes beyond STUFF or objects. It’s a state of mind, even a state of being.


“Emerging in the 15th century as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all. In Japan, the concept is now so deeply ingrained that it’s difficult to explain to Westerners; no direct translation exists.”

Here’s one source trying to explain it to Westerners: Kakuzo Okakura, author of the classic The Book of Tea (found here).

Noodle this one, found on

“Translation can at best be only the reverse side of a brocade–all the threads are there, but not the subtlety of color or design.”

Wabi-sabi is also, then…

Wabi-sabi means living life with an open hand and embracing the unknown.

As a recovering perfectionist, I try to embrace wabi-sabi every day and I’m still learning.

What aspects of wabi-sabi appeal to you? I’d love to know! And check my social media platforms for pictures of the wabi-sabi I find in everyday life.

The definition of wabi-sabi- beauty in imperfection. From


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