あけおめ (akeome) means “Happy New Year”, a casual Japanese New Year’s greeting. It is casually used by young people when they meet their friends in early January. When your friends say this greeting to you, simply repeat the same phrase to reply to them.
Polite Form of akeome
In fact, あけおめ is an abbreviation of “明けましておめでとうございます”, which sounds more polite and formal than the abbreviated phrase. This expression consists of the two parts “明けまして” and “おめでとうございます”. The former is a polite te-form of the verb “明ける” meaning “be over”(*), and the latter means “congratulations”. Therefore, the phrase literally means “(The last year) is over, congratulations!”. Since あけおめ is a casual way of saying “明けましておめでとうございます”, you should use the original expression in a formal context.
(*) 明ける is a rare word used only in a few phrases, including “夜が明ける” meaning “night is over” and ”梅雨が明ける” meaning “rainy season is over”.
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Related Phrase: ことよろ (kotoyoro)
Some people would go on to say “ことよろ (kotoyoro)” after akeome. ことよろ stands for “今年(ことし)もよろしくお願(ねが)いします”, meaning “This year too, let’s get along well with each other”. The latter phrase “よろしくお願いします” is a very common Japanese greeting, which is used when you ask someone to do something, or when you show your willingness to build a good relationship with someone (in this case, you’re sort of asking them to have a good relationship with you). As in akeome, you should use the unabbreviated expression “今年もよろしくお願いします” in a formal situation (e.g. when you greet with someone older than you). In fact, kotoyoro sounds more casual and younger than akeome, and is mainly used among teenagers.
Happy New Year! And this year too, let’s get along well with each other.
Ex2 (A casual version of Ex1)
Ex2 (A more casual version of Ex1)
Synonyms in English: Happy New Year
Related words and phrases: 明ける (be over) おめでとう (congratulations), よろしく