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I am not sure about the meaning of this sentence.

意味ありげな笑いを浮かべた

"(He) showed a meaningful laughter" ?

Is that correct?

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意味ありげな笑いを浮かべた>>>more poetically, 意味ありげな[笑]{え}みを浮かべた。^^ –  Choko Dec 9 '12 at 9:33
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Yes, I think in combination with 浮かべる, 笑み fits better than 笑い... Where did you find the sentence? –  Earthliŋ Dec 9 '12 at 9:54
    
こんな感じでしょうか? >>> lohas.nicoseiga.jp/thumb/1680577i (malicious grin?) or...>>> t3.gstatic.com/… –  Choko Dec 9 '12 at 17:24
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The sentence is from a JLPT preparation book. thx –  toobee Dec 10 '12 at 0:06

3 Answers 3

Cypher and userxxxx have covered the grammar but if you were struggling with "a meaningful smile" then perhaps it could be translated as:

he wore a pregnant smile on his face

or, perhaps, dependng on context:

he allowed a pregnant smile to cross his face

笑い can be smile, chuckle, snigger, giggle or smile but when I came across the following in the textbook そうまとめ文法N2:

男は 意味ありげな 笑いを 浮かべた。

I imagined a small huddle in corner, whispering, and took the line to mean:

The men let out a meaningful laugh.

(again it probably comes down to context.) The following expressions are useful to know:

自信ありげconfident laugh

自信なさげ laugh lacking in confidence

自慢げboastful

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ok, thx. My sentence is from this N2 book. I don't have more context, it is standing alone maybe that made it hard to understand for me. Thx –  toobee Dec 10 '12 at 0:09
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For me, "a knowing smile" is another natural translation. –  jogloran Dec 10 '12 at 2:25
  • I would say that 意味ありげ comes from 意味 "meaning" and 有{あ}り気{げ} "appearing like"/"seeming to be".

    Daijirin says 意味ありげ means 何か意味がありそうな様子, or "a state of appearing to have meaning", the 〜げ presumably coming from the 〜気{げ} which means more-or-less the same as 〜そう (see also What is the difference between ~げ and ~そう), so I think "appearing to have meaning" might be a more literal translation but that "meaningful" is probably close enough.

  • The 笑い here means "smile" I think.

  • I think the transitive verb 浮かべる here means "to express (on one's face)" (def #2 at Daijisen), coming from the core meaning of 浮かべる of "to float"/"to launch (a ship on water etc)".

So I think the translation "(He) expressed a meaningful smile on (his) face" would be close.

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  • 意味ありげ has the same meaning as 意味がある気配 (and may be a contraction of this phrase). It means, just like you suggest, "meaningful" or in a longer version "indicative of having meaning".

  • 笑い is more often a smile than a laughter.

  • 浮かべる is related to 浮かぶ "to float/to surface".

Thus the full sentence is (very much like you suggested)

意味ありげな笑いを浮かべた
He showed a meaningful smile.

or, more poetically

A meaningful smile appeared on his face.

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