Japanese word 引きずる (hikizuru)

By | December 12, 2019

In this post I’d like to highlight the Japanese word “hikizuru”, which is usually written with a combination of kanji and hiragana as 引きずる, or in only hiragana as ひきずる. I chose this word because I hear it once in awhile used for a metaphoric meaning that may not be obvious immediately. (Note: ひきづる is not a correct spelling for this word.)

引きずる is made up from the verbs 引く (hiku) and ずる (zuru). 引く has a variety of meanings, but the most common is “to pull” (as in ドアを引く, “to pull a door open”). In fact, you’ll sometimes see 引くwritten on doors to show they should be pulled instead of pushed.

ずる has a few meanings, but for our purposes the most relevant one is “to slide”. Having said that, it is not used that commonly on its own from what I’ve seen. More common is the word ずるずる (zuruzuru) which is an onomatopoeic word describing the sound or feel of something being pulled, or also a the sound of liquid being sucked up (eg. ラーメンをずるずるすする, “To slurp ramen”).

Anyway, given these meanings it’s no surprise that 引きずる is used to express dragging something. For example:

  • マントを引きずってますね。 (manto wo hikizutte masu ne).
  • You’re dragging your cape.

We could add the above-mentioned word as an adverb ずるずる for emphasis.

  • マントをずるずる引きずってますね。 (manto wo zuruzuru hikizutte masu ne).

As I alluded to in the introduction, this word is also used in a metaphoric sense––actually I hear it used more often in this way.

Here, it is used to signify some past experience that someone is mentally “dragging” around. Actually, saying “emotional baggage” is probably a better way to describe it.

One common example is when talking about an old girlfriend or boyfriend:

  • 元彼をいつまでも引きずっているの? (motokare wo Jitsu made hikizutte iru no?)
  • How long are you going to be hung up on your old boyfriend?

One difference from the Japanese sentence above and the English translation is that the Japanese uses a transitive verb (meaning it takes an object), whereas the English uses a passive verb. This changes the nuance a little, however I chose that English wording since it sounds natural.

Generally the experience in question is a negative, “heavy” one, because you wouldn’t typically “drag” a good experience.

You can use this verb with the loanword タイプ to express having a personality prone to this behavior:

  • 君、もしかして引きずるタイプ? (kimi, moshikashite hikizuru taipu?)
  • Could it be you are the type of person who never lets go?

Note that the best translation in English would depend on the context (talking above love, vs. failures in one’s career, etc.)

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2 thoughts on “Japanese word 引きずる (hikizuru)

    1. locksleyu Post author

      Thanks, glad you liked it!

      By the way, I’ve been checking Annotranslate now and then and haven’t seen any posts lately. Consider this an informal request (:


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