The origin of “Sayonara”


If you’ve ever been exposed to Japanese media, you’ve probably heard the word “sayonara”. It means goodbye, and usually forever. I always thought it just meant goodbye for no particular reason, I’ve found that it has quite the interesting etymology.

To start with, sayonara is actually sayounara, with a long o sound. In hiragana, that’s さようなら.

Let’s break this up into three parts: Sa-you-nara.

Sa is short for saru, which in classical Japanese means “that kind of thing”. In modern Japanese, it’s “sore” (それ).

You in classical and modern Japanese means “the way things are” or soemthing along those lines.

Nara in modern Japanese means “if”.

So sayounara is literally saying “If that’s the way things are.” It was a set phrase implying that you would probably not see someone else again.

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