Otsukaresama Deshita Meaning & Pronunciation: EXPLAINED

Wondering what “otsukare” means? Well…

“Otsukare,” “Otsukaresama,” “Otsukaresama desu” and “Otsukaresama deshita” — whichever version you want (they’re the same, just different levels of formality) —  is one of the most useful Japanese phrase you should learn.

So, what’s the “otsukaresama deshita” meaning? What’s it all about?

First and foremost, it’s a Japanese set phrase (click the link to learn more.).

  • Literal meaning: You are tired.
  • Intended meaning: “You did a good job,” “You worked hard,” “Well done,” and often used as a greeting.
  • Pronunciation: Ots-ka-reh sa-ma desh-ta

Audio Examples:

  • Casual – Otsukare – お疲れ
  • Formal – Otsukaresama – お疲れ様
  • Extra polite – Otsukaresama deshita お疲れ様でした

Otsukaresama Deshita Meaning & Origin

otsukaresama deshita

So, let’s break it down and explain it.

First, the word “Tsukare” in “Otsukaresama” means fatigue, tiredness, weariness, or exhaustion, and is used, for example, to say “I am tired (Tsukare mashita)”

Now, the intended meaning of “Otsukaresama” is actually along the lines of… “You did a good job!”, “Well done!”, “It was great!”, etc. Acording to the Japanese dictionary, it is “a term to express gratitude to a person who has finished a job or is working hard. It is also a term used by people who have worked together to express their appreciation for each other’s hard work.” 

Where does it come from?

“Otsukare” was originally the dialect of Gunma and Niigata, equivalent to “Good evening”. It is thought to have been a way of expressing one’s appreciation for someone who was tired in the evening.

Also during the prewar period, the greeting used in the entertainment industry was “Good morning” when entering the dressing room, regardless of the time of day, and “Otsukaresama” when work was finished.  There is a theory that this greeting spread to the general public in the 1980s and was originally a flirtatious greeting, mimicking the entertainment industry.

So it is originally meant to be a word of encouragement to colleagues, friends, classmates, or subordinates from superiors, but it is also used as a greeting. For example, it is often used when passing someone you know, and meaning will be “Good morning,” “Hello,” “Good evening,” “Hi!”, “How are you?” or “How’s it going?”  

Why is Otsukare so Confusing for Learners?

First, it’s probably because we are using the word “tsukare”(tired)”.

It’s not common to ask “Are you tired?” when passing each other in the hallway, right?

Instead, you would want to say “hey,” “what’s up,” or “good morning.”  But perhaps it is Japanese culture that when you are “working” on something, you want to say something encouraging about the other person’s efforts.

Second, you might have gathered that “otsukare” and its variations are used as a way to say bye in Japanese. However, it can ALSO be used to say hello in the morning as well, believe it or not.

How Otsukare is Used by Japanese People

You’ll hear an “otsukare,” “otsukaresama deshita” or some other variation in all kinds of places.

1. The most common place you will hear it is at work as a greeting — whether as a hello or a bye.

As mentioned above, it is used when you pass your boss or a colleague, and also when a colleague finishes a presentation at a meeting, or when a project is finished. And when we go home after a day’s work, we say “Otuskaresama deshita” instead of “See you tomorrow, bye”.

Also at work, Otsukaresama desu is used to start an internal phone conversation, or at the beginning of an internal email. (Examples are given below, in part 4.)

2. “Otsukare” is also used at school, such as after exams or games. Yes, as a way to say bye or greet and/or acknowledge someone’s hard work. Among children, however, “Jya ne. Mata ashita (See you tomorrow. Bye)” is more common than “Otsukaresama” when going home.

3. You can also use it to say “thank you.” For example, it is often used to thank a cab driver or a delivery person, like “Cheers” in British English.

It is important to note that when saying, “Otsukaresama deshita” should be used IF you are talking to a superior. For example, a student talking to a teacher or an employee talking to a boss.

“Deshita” is the past tense of “Desu”. So, “Otsukaresama deshita” is used after things are done, such as leaving after work or to say “Thank you”, while “Otsukaresama desu” is used when things are ongoing, such as we pass each other.

When speaking among colleagues, classmates, or friends, “Otsukaresama” can be used in both present and past tenses.


  • The word “Otsukaresama” means “to thank others for their hard work.”
  • It is very often used as a light greeting.
  • When using “Otsukaresama,” it is recommended that you use it with people with whom you have a relatively close relationship.

Examples to Help You Understand

Here are some examples of how it is actually used in practice. 

  • For a boss you pass in the office.
    • Otsukaresama desu(お疲れ様です)
    • Intended meaning:  Hello. Good morning. Good evening. How are you?
  • For a colleague you pass in the office.
    • Otsukaresama (お疲れ様)
    • Intended meaning: What are you up to? How is it going?
  • For friends you pass at work or school
    • Otsukare! (お疲れ!)
    • Intended meaning: Hi! What’s up?
  • For a very close friend you crossed paths with at school.
    • Otsu!(おつ!)
    • Intended meaning: Yo! Hey man!
    • (This is a super casual expression, mostly among young people.)
  • When leaving after a day’s work.
    • Otsukaresama deshita(お疲れ様でした)
    • Intended meaning: See you tomorrow, bye.
  • To a boss when he came back from being out of the office.
    • Otsukaresama deshita(お疲れ様でした)
    • Intended meaning:  Welcome back.
      • (In case of colleagues or friends, it will be “Otsukaresama”.)
  • At work. At the beginning of an internal email or at the beginning of an internal call.
    • Otsukaresama desu. Jinji-bu no John desu. (お疲れ様です。人事部のジョンです。)
    • Intended meaning: Hello. This is John from HR Dept.

Otsukaresama Deshita! You’re Done!

You’re done with my article!

Good job! You deserve an “Otsukare” from me.

So, to wrap it up…. although “Otsukasama” has many subtle nuances, it is basically a word to thank someone for his/her hard work and expresses consideration for the other person.

Use it actively with your close colleagues and others to express your sympathy for their tiredness.

It may help you build a better relationship.

– The Main Junkie


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