I've tried looking this up in English--Japanese dictionaries with no luck. I did however get a few results in monolingual dictionaries but I still don't understand what it's supposed to mean and in what context it may be used. Any help is appreciated!

  • I saw it in a book which had a collection of short stories, since I don't own the book I don't have it in front of me right now to put the full text up, but from what I remember there was two characters having a conversation (lets call them A and B), A brings up the name of a dear friend to B who passed away not too long ago which is understandably upsetting for him, I can vaguely remember "Bは返す刀で痛いところ~" "B was hit in a place that hurts[返す刀で]" in regards to what A just said.
    – ThirdDan
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 23:23

1 Answer 1


「返{かえ}す刀{かたな}」 is a set phrase meaning "attempting an attack on a second or different party on an impetus/momentum gained from the success of one's attack on the first or original party".

In other words, your second attack was encouraged by the success of your first.

It does not have to be a physical attack, let alone a sword attack as 「刀」 means "sword". The expression is often used to describe a verbal attack.

The expression is used mostly adverbially in the form of 「返す刀 + Verb Phrase」.

Finally, I feel I would need to mention the fact that this phrase is quite often used incorrectly by us native speakers. That incorrect meaning is "counterattack" or "fighting back".

This page will give you some example sentences.

  • 2
    +1, 動作としてはこういう イメージですね
    – Yosh
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 3:53

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