I was reading a light novel and I looked up the meaning of 袂を分かつ, but I wonder, can someone explain this expression in more detail as to why it means break off relations with/part with someone?
Tamoto (袂)is part of the kimono sleeve, so taken literally as 'cutting the sleeve' how does it relate to cutting of a relationship?

  • Do you have an example sentence? May 23, 2019 at 5:45

1 Answer 1


There is a useful explanation of this phrase at this link here.

A quick summary is as follows:

The 袂 (たもと) is a part of the sleeve of the kimono which hangs down to the side, sometimes even stretching below the hands. In fact, the word たもと appears to be a variant of 手元 (てもと). As such, the word took on the additional meaning of 'beside', 'next to' (see definition), since it hung down to the side of the body.

The word 分かつ has the same standard meanings of 分ける, i.e. 'to divide', 'to separate', etc (see definition).

So the phrase 袂を分かつ took on the figurative meaning of 'separating from what is next to you'. In other words, to break off a connection with someone who used to be close to you. It seems to apply more to non-romantic relationships, such as a friendship which has soured or a working relationship with a colleague which has become strained. The examples listed are:




And by the way, please don't confuse it with トマトを分かつ.
(That was my attempt at a joke).

  • Thank you! Now I understand it better! I looked on another site as well and this part here was also interesting:<br> かつて、袂には人の魂が宿ると言われていて、自分の好きな相手に袖を振ることによって、相手の魂を呼び寄せることができると信じられていました。 I'm not sure if I understood correctly, so please correct me on this! So, it was said that the soul resided in the tamote and when you someone you liked would shake your sleeves, it meant that they were calling out your soul.<br> Did I get the gist of it? May 22, 2019 at 16:48
  • @Alice It's not that the other person shake's your sleeves, it's that when you shake your own sleeve at someone else you like, it has the effect of summoning their spirit to you. Like a way of enticing someone you like to you. At least, that's how I read it. And yes, it's certainly an interesting part of the story :) A
    – kandyman
    May 22, 2019 at 17:53
  • Ah so it was the other way around! I thought of that too and yes it was an interesting read!:) May 22, 2019 at 18:47

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