The Real Meaning of “Sayonara” – Why You Shouldn’t Use It


The Real Meaning of Sayonara in Japanese and English さようなら さよなら Saying Goodbye Forever

I’m pretty sure you have learned or heard that “sayonara” (さようなら) is used to say goodbye in Japan. However, in Japanese the phrase “sayonara” has actually a deeper, slightly sad meaning, and believe it or not, it is hardly ever used among adults and friends. Let’s start with what “sayonarareally means in Japanese and English.

“Sayonara” (さようなら) translates as “goodbye” or “farewell” in English, but in Japanese, it actually means “farewell forever”. In Japan, it is only used when you don’t expect to see the other person again as a final parting phrase and by elementary school children to say goodbye to their teacher.

Once, I used “sayonara” (さようなら) to say goodbye to my roommate when he moved out and he was really upset about it. So don’t make the same mistake as I did and read on to learn why you shouldn’t use sayonara with your friends and which phrases you should use instead to say goodbye in Japanese. We will also cover the meaning of “Ara ara sayonara” – the phrase Shinobu uses in the anime “Demon Slayer“.

The Real Meaning of “Sayonara”

Sayonara” (さようなら), which can also be written as “sayounara” translates as “farewell“, “adieu“, “goodbye“, or “so long” (source). However, while the dictionary translations suggest that the word is used just like “goodbye” in English, you have to know that it is hardly ever used to say goodbye in Japanese.

Sayonara
さようなら
Farewell
Adieu
Goodbye
So long

The real meaning of the Japanese word “sayonara” (さようなら) and the more accurate English translations are “Farewell forever” and “Goodbye forever“. Japanese people only saysayonara” when they don’t want to or don’t expect to see the other person again. It is used as a final goodbye to someone.

The real meaning of “Sayonara” is:
Farewell forever
Goodbye forever

Because of this, you shouldn’t use this phrase in daily conversations. There are a few exceptions to this general rule, though, which we are going to cover next.

When & Why Do Japanese People Say “Sayonara”?

Japanese people say “sayonarawhen they are breaking up with their partner or as a final goodbye to someone who is about to or has passed away. It is only used when you don’t expect to see the other person again. However, elementary school children use “sayonara” to say goodbye to their teacher.

  • breaking up with a partner
  • final goodbye to someone who has passed away or is about to pass away
  • formal way to say goodbye to one’s teacher (elementary school only)

Occasionally, “sayonara” (さようなら) is also used to say goodbye to a beloved one in case you don’t know when or if you will see the person ever again. So, for example, a Japanese soldier might saysayonara” to his wife and children before leaving for war.

Generally speaking, whenever you hope or want to see someone again, you shouldn’t usesayonara” (さようなら) to say goodbye them, though. Don’t use it as a formal goodbye to your coworkers at work or a stranger and never ever use it as a casual bye to your friends.

Is “Sayonara” Considered a Sad Word?

In Japanese “sayonara” (さようなら) is often considered a sad word because it implies that you will never see the other person again. It is not a casual goodbye but used as a final farewell and means “goodbye forever“. It can also indicate that you don’t want to see the other person ever again.

I once used “sayonara” to say goodbye to my roommate who was moving out. I didn’t know any better back then but I really hurt him a lot. He was so upset about my words that he wrote me a really long text in the afternoon explaining how sad he is and that it is notsayonara” because he wants to see me again.

I really hurt him a lot and I still feel sorry about that. So please remember that using “sayonara” (さようなら) will probably make your Japanese friends very sad. If you want to know what casual and formal phrases you can use to say goodbye in Japanese, check out my linked post. I will show you a total of 26 phrases!

Is “Sayonara” Considered Rude or Offensive?

Sayonara” (さようなら) is a formal phrase that is used by elementary school students to politely say goodbye to their teacher. However, when used as a goodbye to friends or family it is too formal and might even be considered rude or offensive since it implies you won’t or don’t want to see them again.

Sayonara is a polite goodbye when used by elementary school students. But, in informal situations it can be rude, offensive, or upsetting.

Is it Bad to Say “Sayonara”?

Since “Sayonara” (さようなら) is generally speaking a polite and formal expression it is not a bad word. However, it implies that you might not or don’t want to see the other person ever again. So it might be considered “bad“, “inappropriate“, or even rude when used to say goodbye in casual situations.

How to Say “Goodbye” in Japanese

In casual situations, you should use the phrase “Jaa ne” (じゃあね) or “Mata ne” to say goodbye in Japanese. In formal situations, employees and students should use the phrases “Shitsurei shimasu” (失礼します) and “Otsukaresama desu” (お疲れ様です) to say goodbye to your teacher, boss, seniors, colleagues.

If you want to know in detail what all the above-mentioned phrases mean check out my other blog post: 26 Ways to Say Goodbye in Japanese (Casually & Formally). You can also learn the phrase that samurai used to say goodbye.

How to Reply to “Sayonara”

The basic reply to “sayonara” would generally be to repeat the same wordssayonara” (さようなら) since in Japan it is common to respond back with exactly the same phrase. However, if you want you can also thank the person for the time you spent together by saying “arigatou gozaimashita” (ありがとうございました).

Basic Replies:
Sayonara
さようなら
Farewell

Arigatou gozaimashita. Sayonara.
ありがとうございました。さようなら。
Thank you for everything. Farewell.

Since “sayonara” (さようなら) is not commonly used to say goodbye and should never be used when you expect to see the person again the next morning, it is actually better to say “Jaa ne” (じゃあね) or “Mata ne” (またね) which means “See you” or “See you again“.

Better goodbye phrases & responses:
Jaa ne
じゃあね
See you!

Mata ne
またね
See you again!

The Meaning of “Ara Ara Sayonara” (Demon Slayer)

The meaning of “Ara ara sayonara” (あらあらさよなら) is “Oh me, oh my goodbye” or “My my goodbye“. “Ara ara” (あらあら) is a Japanese exclamation that is often used by older, gentle, and motherly female characters like Shinobu from Demon Slayer, while “sayonara” (さようなら) means “goodbye” or “farewell forever“.

Ara ara sayonara
あらあらさようなら
Oh me, oh my goodbye!
My my goodbye!

If you want to know more about the meaning of “ara ara” in Japanese, please check out my other blog post. There is a big difference in how the exclamation is used in real life and how it is used in anime.

What Language is “Sayonara”?

Sayonara” is a Japanese word that has also become part of the English language. The well-known word from the Japanese language became popular in English in the 1800s and can be used in informal situations. Sometimes it is believed that “sayonara” is a Spanish word, however, this is not correct.

Sayonara is a Japanese word, but the word has also become part of the English language and has been used in informal sitauations since the 1800s.

Alex (RockinJapanese)

おはよう. I'm Alex. I have started studying Japanese when I was still a high school student and I have been living and working in Japan since 2015. I'm still learning new Japanese phrases and words every day and I thought that publishing them online will be useful for you, too. Hopefully, my study notes and free Japanese lessons will help you to reach the Japanese level you want to have! If you have any questions feel free to contact me anytime! Alex

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