June 12, 2023

The Meaning of ぶり in Japanese – It’s a Long Time or a Manner of Doing Something

In Japanese, ぶり is a noun suffix that indicates:

  1. The amount of time since an action last occurred, or 
  2. The manner or style of something. 

Let's focus on the first usage and touch briefly on the second.

1) Time Since Last Occurrence

When used to indicate time since last occurrence, it is usually used with a duration and can be translated as "for the first time in (period of time)" or "after (period of time)".

For example:


I returned to Japan for the first time in six years.


I met him for the first time in a week.

This meaning is usually written in kana.

You may recognize this ぶり from the common greeting, (ひさ)しぶり.

(ひさ)しぶり is a Japanese expression which is similar to the English, "long time no see." It's used when you're seeing someone or doing something after a long period of time.

The term (ひさ)しぶり combines the adverb (ひさ)し, which means "long time," and the suffix ぶり, which refers to the time since an event last happened. Together, they're used to indicate that a significant amount of time has passed since the referenced event took place.

It’s probably most often used simply as a greeting when meeting someone after a long period of time:


It’s been a while!

Here are a couple example sentences using (ひさ)しぶり:


A friend I met for the first time in a while.


I ate pizza for the first time in a long time.

In both cases, (ひさ)しぶり is used to indicate that a significant amount of time has passed since the speaker last met her friend or ate pizza.

I (Clay) have heard some younger people use ぶり to represent shorter periods of time. This is a play on (ひさ)しぶり.

For example:


I just saw you.*

[Said when you run into the same person more than once during the day. *This may not be used! I'm including it because I am sure I've heard it said in dramas, but it could be my ears playing tricks!]



How long has it been?

[Like (ひさ)しぶり this is used when longer periods of time has passed to ask how many years it has been.]

Neither Yumi nor her mother use either of those words, and I during the few days since our arrival in Japan (we are here for a few more weeks), I haven’t meet someone who actually uses these phrases, but you might hear them on dramas or when speaking to younger people. These are friendly slang phrases (if even in common usage!), so don’t use them in formal contexts.

2) Manner or Style

When used to indicate the manner or style of something, it usually comes after a verb or noun and can be translated as "in the manner of" or "in the style of". It is less commonly used this way but it still can be found in some contexts.

For example:


Her way of talking is always calm.


His way of working is very efficient.

And here is a common phrase using this ぶり concept.



[manner of body; manner of hands]


(From his gestures, I could tell that he was angry.)

This meaning can also be written in kanji (振り). Rather than indicating a (long) period of time, it represents a style or manner.

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