Meeting in Japanese

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
会う 合う

Meet in Japanese

One of the most social words in any language must be “meet.” In Japanese, the word for “meet” is au (会う or 合う -  pronounced somewhat like “ow!”). It is used much like it is in English, and just as often.

However, au is used quite often in the sense of “to see,” as in “to bump into” or “to happen upon.” This sense is more fully expressed in the phrase ikiau 行き会う, the “totally by chance (and joyfully)” meguriau 巡り会う or the more negatively nuanced deau 出会う, but 会う alone often suffices.
Therefore, the phrase:
daitai mainichi kare to au
is probably better translated as “I see him almost every day” than “I meet him almost every day.”

The past tense of the verb au is atta, with the dental stop between the Ts, as with the Ts when saying the phrase “at tack” as opposed to the word “attack.”
Yuji ni atta toki, saigo ni naru to omowanakatta
When I met Yuji, I didn’t think it would be our last time

Au is the kunyomi, or the “sound.” The onyomi, or “name,” of the character is kai.
One of the places you’re most likely to see the character for meet is in the Japanese phrase for “limited liability company,” usually abbreviated in English to “Co., Ltd.”: kabushiki-gaisha.
Hmm, but how come we can’t see an au or a kai in there? Well, there is a kai, but in Japanese, when a “k” crops up in the middle of a phrase, it is often softened – i.e. voiced – to a “g.”
Kaisha, "company," (literally “meeting association”) therefore becomes gaisha here.

kaigi 会議 (“meet” + “discuss”) means “meeting,” as in a board meeting, committee meeting, PTA meeting, union meeting, etc.

Just the word kai (会) refers to a club or circle.
Sato-san wa saikin meisoukai o hajimeta sou desu
Apparently Mr. Sato started a meditation circle recently.

The meaning of an encounter in au can extend to situations, but only bad ones. It is used in the phrase me ni au 目に合う, literally “to meet an eye,” as in tsurai me ni au (go through a hard time):
Yes, I heard that he started the meditation circle after going through some rough times.

Finally, au (albeit written as 合う instead of 会う) can express a sense of mutuality when tacked on to the end of another verb, as in  meguriau and deau touched on above. This can be used in both positive and negative senses.
shiriau 知り合う (“know” + “meet”): to know each other. As a noun, a shiriai is “an acquaintance.”
hanashiau 話し合う (“talk” + “meet”): to discuss, talk together, talk over
naguriau 殴り合う (“punch” + “meet” - albeit written with a different character): to have a fist fight, a punch up.
hariau 張り合う (“assert oneself” + “meet”): to vie with, to try and outdo, to compete
And finally, a very sociable word, oriau 折り合う (“bend” + “meet”): to deal with another ably, get along with, hit it off with, compromise, makes terms with, etc.

hariaou to shinai to tsurai me ni aisou
Things will get pretty sticky unless we can learn to get along


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