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I understand お疲れー is something you say in a JP company when you leave for work, etc.

However, I'm confused because I saw it used in other context?

  1. When someone get home which I think means "thanks for coming)
  2. When answering to the phone of friend/family

In particular I don't understand meaning 2. How is it used in the context of answering a phone?

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Note this answer is partially subjective.

As for the meaning, it is always appreciation of efforts. But it is used conventionally and the meaning is kind of worn out. So in some cases, it is just a way to say hi. In such cases it virtually means nothing. It is like dear... in English in the sense that you don't really mean dear in many cases.

When answering to the phone of friend/family

I don't think answering the phone from friend/family with お疲れ(様) is very common. If it happens, it is just carrying the workplace habit to the private life.

The 'hi' sense of お疲れ/お疲れ様です is used among colleagues (workers in the same company). For example, you write emails or talk on the phone/chat (slack, Teams or whatever), you start the conversation with お疲れ様です (お疲れ if you are in casual relationship with the addressee).


A similar phrase is (variants of) お世話になっております. This is used as an opening for a conversation with people outside of your own company (often customers). The usage does not really have anything to do with the meaning. You are usually expected to use it when addressing the customer for the first time.

I personally think this custom is rather weird, to say the least.

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    同意です。個人的には職場でも「いや、疲れてないけど」と言いたくなります。「お世話」の方は仕方なく言いますが。
    – aguijonazo
    Jan 27 at 22:29
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sundowner answers the question clearly and completely, but I would just like to voice my own different opinion on what I feel being hailed by お疲れ様です.

It is clearly an opening or parting greeting, with the words not containing almost any literal meaning at this point, much like お早う or 今晩は. In a work environment it is usually (other than clocking out time) to get the attention of a potential listener like a "hey," but "hey" is overly casual in Japan so お疲れ様です is a useful opener before communicating any information of substance (especially for people in IT where they're staring at a screen so you need to break them out of that directed concentration before a conversation can begin).

However, when I'm greeted by お疲れー from a friend whom I don't get to meet that often, that greeting feels warm and inviting to me on a visceral level, moreso than say, "よっ" or "うっすっ" or whatever other variants of hello you may think of. It says "you've been working hard but hanging in there, nice work buddy" all in one word, and even if that's not true it just feels good.

So, from an outside perspective the word may sound weird, but I believe it has its merits.

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According to Goo Dictionary:

御疲れ様(おつかれさま)
相手の労苦をねぎらう意で用いる言葉。また、職場で、先に帰る人へのあいさつにも使う。

"An expression used to show appreciation for someone's hard work or efforts. Also used as a greeting to those leaving work early at the workplace."
It is not only said to someone who's leaving their workplace, but also to someone who's had a busy day (arriving home etc), someone on the phone who's been busy lately, as well as you could say it to someone after a presentation, a meeting, etc.

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It's literally "you definitely worked hard enough that you got tired, good job", but as others have already explained, it's just a hi in the end.

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