long time no see meaning

Long time no see: meaning and origin

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There is no confusion about “long time no see” meaning.

It’s easy to understand that it means ‘it’s been a long time since people saw each other last time’.

I think I first heard it in a movie or a TV series and back then I thought that maybe I recalled it incorrectly. Even if you’re not a big fan of English grammar you still can feel that something is wrong and makes no sense in terms of grammar.

In fact, it’s a grammatically wrong expression. But it doesn’t prevent it from being a common greeting among English speakers, including natives.

Long time no see origin

The exact origin of this fixed expression is unknown. One of the main theories is that it may originate from the English language spoken by American Indians or Chinese or imitation of their speech in literature.

Initially, people didn’t use it as a greeting. British Colonel James Campbell used the expression in the documentary book about his life on Ceylon (1843).

There, a local man Appolo tries to sell some goods to an English lady.
“Ma-am—long time no see wife—want go to Colombo see wife”, says Appolo.

The American writer W. F. Drannan put this sentence into the mouth of an American Indian.

In Drannan’s book this man greets him with a sentence: “Good morning. Long time no see you.”

This example of usage appears in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Nowadays, people use this expression in spoken English. You can hear it in a movie or YouTube video or in daily speech.

See some examples here:


Okay, that’s it. Now tell me when you first heard this expression and do you use it in your daily life? Share it in the comments or write to me directly at vika@about-english.com

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