Long Time

If you haven’t seen someone for a while, you might greet them by saying “long time no see”. Have you ever wondered where that phrase comes from?

Long time no see

According to NPR, if was first used in print in 1900 in a book by William F. Drannan called Thirty-One Years on the Plains and in the Mountains, Or, the Last Voice from the Plains An Authentic Record of a Life Time of Hunting, Trapping, Scouting and Indian Fighting in the Far West – a nice snappy title. In the book the phrase is used in the following context:

“I knew he had recognized me. When we rode up to him he said: ‘Good morning. Long time no see you,’ and at the same time presented the gun with breech foremost.”

Another idea is that it is comes from Chinese phrase 好久不见 [好久不見] (hǎojǐu bújiàn), which means “quite a while, not see/meet”.

The character (jǐu) means ‘(long) time’, and appears in Japanese equivalents of the phrase: 久しぶり (hisashiburi) and お久しぶりですね (o hisashiburi desu ne). In this context, the ぶり (buri) part, which can also be written 振り, means after (a period of time), again or for the first time in (a period of time) [source].

always appears in expressions like:

  • 久しい (hisashii) = long (time that has passed), old (story)
  • 久々 (hisabisa) = (in a) long time, long time (ag), while (ago)
  • 久しく (hisashiku) = for a long time, for ages, for a good while
  • 久懐 (kyūkai) = long-cherished hope
  • 久闊 (kyūkatsu) = not having met or contacted someone for a long time; neglect of friends​ [source]

There’s a nice equivalent of this phrase in Russian: Сколько лет, сколько зим! (Skol’ko let, skol’ko zim!), which means literally “How many years, how many winters!”.

How to say ‘long time, no see’, or something similar, in many languages: https://omniglot.com/language/phrases/longtimenosee.htm.

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