Long time no see

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"Long time no see" is an English expression used as an informal greeting by people who have not seen each other for an extended period.

The phrase is often portrayed as originating in Chinese pidgin English. It may have been coined at one point based on the Cantonese phrase "好耐冇見" (Jyutping: hou2 noi6 mou5 gin3), or the Mandarin phrase "好久不見", both of which yield the exact expression "long time no see" when translated directly into English.[citation needed]

Some also believe the term may have been coined by native English speakers, in imitation of Native American pidgin in cinematic portrayals.[1] Over the following decades, the expression has since been embraced and used around the world.


The phrase "long time no see" first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1901.[citation needed]

In literature[edit]

The phrase can be found in Thirty-One Years on the Plains and in the Mountains, by author W. F. Drannan, which recorded a Native American man greeting the narrator by saying, "Good morning. Long time no see you."[2] This example reflects usage in American Indian Pidgin English.

Another early use of the phrase in record, though not as a greeting, may be found in the 1843 publication by James Campbell, titled Excursions, Adventures, and Field-Sports in Ceylon: "Ma-am—long time no see wife—want go to Colombo see wife."[3]


  1. ^ Partridge, Eric, and Beale, Paul (2002). A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, p. 1386. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-29189-5, ISBN 978-0-415-29189-7.
  2. ^ "long (a.1 c)". Oxford English Dictionary. 1989. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  3. ^ Campbell, James (1843). Excursions, Adventures, and Field-Sports in Ceylon; Its Commercial and Military Importance, and Numerous Advantages to the British Emigrant, Vol. 1, p. 254. London: T. and W. Boone.