Expression of the Day: Saru’Mana

I probably heard the expression saru’ mana about 5,000 times before I finally asked my friend Mihai what in the world it meant. My friend was a rather old school guy and he used this expression a lot when greeting people, especially at stores.

It comes from a contraction of sarut (lit: “kissed”) and mână (lit. “the hand”) meaning “the hand is kissed” or perhaps more conventionally “I kiss your hand”. Say what?

It is generally used today in Romania as a greeting (when saying hello, not goodbye) to anyone who is significantly older than you and is a way to show respect. I’d say about 90% of the time it is used to greet women and in that sense it is roughly equivalent to the English custom of saying “ma’am”.

Because of the underlying connotation of respect, you’re not going to win any friends if you say saru’ mana to a woman who isn’t ready to be a “ma’am” yet, say under age 35 or so. It’ll just make her feel old and she won’t like that one bit.

Since I had only heard it used to greet women I was mightily surprised one day when a young lad in my bloc said saru’ mana to ME one day. But after careful consultation with other Romanians, I realized that the kid had just been raised to be very polite and since I am (to him!) a “respectable elder”, the saru mana was a properly respectful greeting.

I didn’t include the pronunciation here because it isn’t exactly standard based on how it would be in normal Romanian – the two parts are said all blended in together and the “u” sound tends to get slurred into a more “a” sound so mostly what I’ve heard would be along the lines of SA-ra-muh-na.


9 thoughts on “Expression of the Day: Saru’Mana

  1. This tradition came from Rumanian Christian Orthodox Church, some holy days in the church, during the service, the priest require to the believers to forgive each other, the mistakes which the believers commited in the time between the holy days. The sins, are to be forgived only by Holy Trinity, praing in the church and carring a life as per church requirements. But the mistakes, trespasses, can be forgived as per “Our Father” (Paternoster), preing: …Forgive our trespasses as we forgive our debtors”. After reciting the chorus of prayer “Paternoster” (Our Father), the priest invites the faithful to forgive each other mistakes made during the last holiday (tis moment are in all Christain Churches, Anglican too, giving hands only ). At this moment younger apologize to those older, the elders apologize elders, parents grandparents, neighbors, acquiantances, men apologize mothers and women then men women apologize. Then receiving forgiveness kissing the right hand of the pardoned in gratitude and worship. This tradition moved while the church family home, then all Romanian society. Romanian people have even a religios Holiday “IERTACIUNEA” (Forgiveness Day), when even one that you are enemies, for forgiveness in the church, comess home to you with his wife or his family, bring gifts and kowtow (roast turkey and wine own made), sit at the table and ask for forgiveness and interruption of enmity. Nobody can deny forgiveness, as un-Christian act, which is big sin. In this day of forgiveness, called “Lasata Secului” beginning of Lent (Shrove Tuesday), all doors and gates are open for visitors.
    From this millennial traditions of the rumanian people, keeping kissing hand, form of greeting and gratitude to a woman or younger woman, even to a gerl younger, from the sign of gratitude for forgiveness, now as a form of special respect given especially women, but men (rarely) and elders in family, priests, Patriarch, mitropolites, bishops, elders monastiry monks, old people and those who have done you much good (doctors), and have helped selflessly. Rumanian children, are educated by church priest and parents, to to greet all elders, familiary, neighbors, visitors, with “Sarumana!” (kissyouhand). Children not adressed this greeting “Sarumana!” to a young age with them, nor to a young persons. This form of greeting are presserved, for married persons, for mothers, for parents, for elder visitors, for priests. To other people the greetings are “good morning”, “good day”, “good evening” and “good night”, Always, to the women, usualy greetings are “Sarumana!”, even speaking by Phone.


  2. Me being a foreigner too, living in Romania, it drove me crazy when i visisted a friend, that had a lot of family came over as well.

    I’ll just stick to “buna” to the ladies, and “salut” to the guys (i know of course..), nobody that will shoot me for doing that :D

    Nice story by the way, I enjoyed reading it.


  3. Saru’mana is generally used for elders; however, sarut-mainile is something a man of say 30 could say to a female even of his age to show respect, and, well, suck up.


  4. săru’mâna is also used as a heartedly „thank you”, usually by children but also jokingly between adults, when the one who utters it wants to appear humble.


    1. Vlad, very good observation! This form of greeting or gratitude is characteristic only of the Roumanian people. Nowhere in the world I have not seen this form of politeness. (a retired sailor).


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