For a while, I've been trying to express a good translation for the english "to reminisce". Reminisce means, in general, to spend time with friends/family thinking about happy things that had happened in the past.

I know that 追忆 and 怀旧 are common translations - do they both express this "happy, remembering" meaning? If not, how are they used?

4 Answers 4


Reminisce doesn't have a "happy remembering" meaning, nor does it imply spending any time with anyone, friends or family or otherwise. Reminisce only means "to remember, talk, or write about the past (in an indulging way)". Thinking about "happy things in the past" as the question wanted is more like "to reminisce fondly".

The closest match in Chinese is 追憶 / 追忆, meaning "to remember past events". It is similar to 回憶, but 追憶 evokes a stronger, more emphatic feel, making it more similar to English's "to reminisce".

In contrast, 懷舊 / 怀旧 conveys a sense of cherishing the memories. Its means "yearning for the past", rather than recalling it, and implies rose-tinted glasses. Note that 懷舊 is also a noun, meaning "nostalgia".

Another suggestion that can't be used for reminisce is 懷緬, or more correctly 緬懷. It actually means "imagining the past (history, not memory)" or "cherishing the memory (typically, of someone who died)". For example, "Commemorating my late mother (緬懷天上的媽媽)". Rather inappropriate for translating reminisce.

What the question really asks for seems to be "to reminisce with friends and family". For this sense of the word, a good Chinese option is 敘舊 / 叙旧 - literally, "to talk about olden days". This word is strictly about reminiscing with people, and works well for situations such as "to reminisce with old friends at the high school reunion (在高中同學會與老友敘舊)". Note that 敘舊 can't be used for general thinking, remembering, or writing.

  • 2
    "Yearning for the past" is spot-on!
    – NS.X.
    Aug 8, 2014 at 8:42
  • @semaphore would you say that 叙旧 is something that could be used in spoken language?
    – Stephen
    Aug 9, 2014 at 2:17
  • @Stephen It is a little bit literary, but I still hear people say it. People are more likely to say something like 聚一聚, but that wouldn't convey reminiscing. BTW, I added a paragraph explaining why 懷緬 / 緬懷, meaning "to commemorate", shouldn't be used for reminiscing.
    – Semaphore
    Aug 9, 2014 at 4:05
  • so, people would say “在高中同学会据老友聚一聚?”
    – Stephen
    Aug 10, 2014 at 2:32

I think you can say "和XX一起*懷緬*往事".

  • Is this a phrase that I could use in spoken language? Is this a pretty modern expression?
    – Stephen
    Aug 9, 2014 at 2:10
  • No, "懷緬" is more usually used in written contents. If people's age are mature enough (over 50), we can say "話當年".
    – Henry HO
    Aug 12, 2014 at 2:43

Both words 懷舊 and 追憶 are not the right word for you.

懷緬 and 緬懷 are better words.

I would use an expression, say 懷緬昔日樂事 or 緬懷昔日樂事。

  • huai2mian3 right? Is this expression commonly used?
    – Stephen
    Aug 9, 2014 at 2:10
  • 1
    Yes. If you are coming with family and freinds, you can write 與親朋共聚,懷緬昔人樂事。 I am cantonese speaker. Less formal way it can be 同親人朋友聚聚,講下以前啲開心嘢。
    – OmniBus
    Aug 10, 2014 at 1:11

追 means chase, 忆 means memory. So 追忆 means chase good memory.
怀 means recall, 旧 means old. So 怀旧 means recall good old days.

Which one is closer to "to reminisce"? I personally go with 怀旧.

Both are normally used in written language. 追忆 can be used as a verb: 追忆往事
Or a noun: 此情只待成追忆

怀旧 can be used as a adjective: "Hotel California"是一首怀旧金曲

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