There is a Hungarian expression, küszöbgörcs, which literally means "threshold-cramp", and is used to describe that long conversation you have in the entryway, with all the guests awkwardly holding their coats and purses, and every so often somebody says something like "Ok, we really have to leave now, but just one more thing...", and then the conversation is good for another half an hour at least.

I've searched in vain for an equivalent idiom in English, yet I feel sure it must exist: I know English speakers are equally susceptible to this malady, it's not a uniquely Hungarian thing. I will sometimes use literal translations, like the aforementioned threshold-cramp (or doorway-spasm), but then I need to explain it, and that's less than satisfactory. (Plus it leads to more threshold cramping.)

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    I need to know this for when I'm trying to get my mother out the door.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 18:31
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    It's not really an equivalent so I'll post this as a comment. Kate Fox, in her "Watching the English" book, talkes about this occurrence, calling it "The Long Goodbye Rule" where people keep dragging the convo for some time (there are some sociological reasons for this, it's not casual). I think you'd be interested in reading something about it :D
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 18:34
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    I love this word; could you include a pronunciation hint? Sometimes, it's best to just steal words outright :) Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 18:44
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    There should also be one for the inability to actually put the phone down, especially with moms. ("Mom, I really have to go now or the very fabric of the space-time continuum will unravel and destroy the entire universe!" "Yeah, okay. One more thing...")
    – Tragicomic
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 19:01
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    I wish I could upvote @Tragicomic more than once, although it's not my mum I can't get off the phone. Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 20:06

11 Answers 11


In social work, doorknobbing is the word sometimes used to describe the phenomenon of delaying the important personal revelations until the end of the therapy session when goodbyes are being said.

This option has the advantage of actually being in circulation. It has the disadvantage that it also carries one or two very different meanings of a frank sexual nature.

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    It really is too bad about the other meanings (which come up first in a Google search). Otherwise, this'd be almost perfect.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 14:57
  • I'm wondering whether we can co-opt doorknobbing to the point where its sexual meaning falls by the wayside. Because it really reflects this phenomenon the best, where it's almost like the act of touching the doorknob makes you remember all this stuff that you absolutely have to tell your host before you leave.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 20:25
  • Given that social workers are already using it in the situation you are talking about, I think you’re fine to use it too.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 22:32
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    If you were able to reclaim a word from its sexual connotations, it would be the first time I'm sure.
    – naughtilus
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 11:49
  • I really think this just has nothing, at all, to do with the phenomenon asked about.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 11:13

I coined a phrase a few years back. I call it conversational dieseling. As those familiar with internal combustion engines will tell you, dieseling happens when a gasoline engine is switched off but enough fuel mixture still gets into the cylinders and ignites from the heat, causing the engine to sputter on. I think it describes the inability to end a conversation (or a meeting) pretty well, if I do say so myself. :)

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    Oscar Wilde: "I wish I had said that." Whistler: "You will, Oscar, you will."
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 4:01
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    I love this! Great phrase!
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 18:17
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    @MetaEd: That's pretty presumptuous. Had it not been useful in some way to the OP, one supposes she would have down-voted it sometime over the last five months. As it stands, yours is the first censorious activity it's received.
    – Robusto
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 10:42
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    @MetaEd: Your statement is simply garden-variety question begging. It assumes facts not in evidence (e.g., that I don't think this site should be useful, or that your definition of what "useful" might mean has already been established and agreed upon, or that there can be "correct" answers to all questions on this site).
    – Robusto
    Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 23:37
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    @MetaEd Anyway, how useful would it be to the OP (or anyone else, for that matter) if we said there's no equivalent idiom in English in common parlance and left it at that? Sure, if there was a circulating idiom that meant just that, then a coined phrase won't be as useful, and should probably be a comment. But that's not the case, and an expertly coined phrase is more helpful to anyone than a brick wall.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 19:09

To do such is to dilly-dally:

dil·ly-dal·lied, dil·ly-dal·lying, dil·ly-dal·lies

To waste time, especially in indecision; dawdle or vacillate

Informal: to loiter or vacillate

Of note, I think, is the relation to vacillate, that tells us:

To swing indecisively from one course of action or opinion to another.

And then coupled with loiter:

To stand idly about; linger aimlessly.

In context, the optional actions are to talk, or to leave. You're dilly-dallying.

Note: Usage of this might be primarily a UK thing and certainly not exclusive to talking in doorways, but let's see what you and the rest of us think.

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    I love "dilly-dally" and use it here in the US, but I think it's not necessarily for doorway conversations. +1 anyway because I like the word.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 19:08
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    The synonyms are not bad either - dawdle and linger
    – mplungjan
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 20:06
  • Loiter (to me) has the connotation that you are delaying without reason; sort of just hanging around, which is different from dilly-dallying or dawdling, where you are doing something, but just taking a long time to do it.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 10:02
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    The thing is, the attraction of küszöbgörcs is its specific meaning. None of these come close. In fact, none of them imply anything about talking or even about not leaving, both of which are salient features of doorway-cramps.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 14:23
  • Good one, dilly-dally is really about the closest catchy-phrase-like thing in English. Other than simply saying "they were dragging out the goodbyes".
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 11:17

Not a very reliable source, but The Urban Dictionary defines an Irish goodbye as:

A goodbye taking more than 1 hour and in which a new conversation begins. People can spend hours on end standing in the driveway talking, during an Irish Goodbye. Not limited to Irish people, but very common among large Irish Families.

However, that entry has more downvotes than upvotes, and is outranked by what is pretty much the inverse definition:

leaving the bar or anywhere for that matter, without closing niceties, like a kiss goodbye to that annoying girl or mentioning something to your friends

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    The "not limited to Irish people, but very common among large Irish families" bit is an absurdly weak justification for the name. It's common among large <take your pick of nationalities/ethnicities here> families. The OP mentions Hungarian. Just last week I heard this referred to as an Armenian good-bye. A more interesting exercise might be to come up with which groups are not prone to such partings.
    – John Y
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 21:34
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    Irish goodbyes are extremely frequent in Spain. I was (nicely) surprsed when I moved to Australia that people would just say goodbye and leave. So maybe it should be European Goodbye?
    – CesarGon
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 10:53
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    Yeah, this is probably common to many nationalities and creeds. For another example, I commonly hear this referred to as a "Jewish goodbye". Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 21:20
  • "Irish goodbye" is more often used when a person disappears without leavetaking.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 7:23
  • Urban Dictionary also offers "Armenian goodbye" and "Carolina goodbye". Beware though of relying on Urban Dictionary as many of the entries are invented terms not in circulation.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 7:54

I typically hear and use the phrase long goodbye. Unfortunately, searching for anything to back me up just finds a book, a movie and a song with the same title.

Other options:

  • awkward goodbye (also covers emotionally awkward departures)
  • lingering conversations (more focused on the conversation; less on the goodbye)

You could also expressions such as deathtrap, time-sink or time killer to describe the situations or people who cause them. Here are some example uses:

I would have left hours ago if not for the long goodbye.

We often lose ourselves in lingering conversations.

Leaving home typically involves a series of awkward goodbyes.

Avoid the marketing department — they are a complete deathtrap and you'll never get anything done.

  • PS: I see what you did there.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 21:50
  • //ashamed — well, not really, but let's pretend. :D
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 22:08
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    Long goodbye is widely used. It also has a different meaning, namely death.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 7:52
  • I really feel "long goodbye" is not relevant here
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 11:26

When I was younger, I would often visit a friend's house with my mother, or have a friend visit my house with his mother. Inevitably, play time would come to a close. Whichever of us was visiting would get told by our mother to get ready to go while they finished chatting.

We'd be all ready to go, waiting on our mothers, asking, "Mom, when are we leaving?"

"In just a minute," they'd say as they tried to wrap up their conversation. This was usually guarantee-able up to another 10 minutes of play time each time we received this answer.

We ended up calling this phenomenon, "Mommy Minutes."

Although, it's not truly applicable to the OP's question, I feel like I had to throw this in the mix.

Otherwise, I'd vote for "Door-Knobbing," or having continued conversation/lingering in the doorway while holding the door knob, physically indicating an intention of leaving, but not really making much of a verbal effort to commit to the farewell.



Same meaning as dilly-dally, usually used instead of the word "loiter"; To fritter away time, in any idle task, not only talking, usually in a place where you aren't supposed to be, thus the connotation of loitering.


I've heard the terms "goodbye conversation" and "doorway conversation" to refer to this phenomenon. As far as any action behind it, how about "dawdling on doorsteps"?

  • Can you offer a reference to give some idea of how common these terms are in circulation?
    – MetaEd
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 7:56

I don't have a written source, but I have heard of a Minnesota goodbye. Maybe it was on the N.P.R. program "A Prairie Home Companion" with Garrison Keillor.

  • That's probably a variation on the "[insert nationality here] goodbye" mentioned in the comments on Henrik N.'s answer. I suppose I could start calling it the "Hungarian goodbye"...
    – Marthaª
    Commented Oct 20, 2013 at 23:37
  • Quite right - for us it's "Argentinian Doorway Goodbyes"!
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 11:22

I did try searching for a common, easily understood idiom which would convey the OP's request. Namely, the phenomenon when just before leaving your house, a guest will invariably remember something which then acts as a trigger for other questions and observations.

But it needn't be a guest leaving your house, it could be the other way round.

I used to have a very dear aunt who lived alone with her dog, out in the sticks, in a tiny tiny Italian village. Once after a long visit, she followed my ex-husband and myself to the car. She was talking so I rolled down the car window. Craftily, she leaned in and began chatting away to us. I could tell my ex was getting exasperated. Unperturbed, or knowing full well days may pass before she had the opportunity to speak to another human being for more than 5 minutes; my aunt gripped onto the car window. My ex-husband switched on the engine and began to slowly move forward, my aunt, still talking, likewise moved along. "Zia!" I cried, "we really have to go now! Ciaooo."

Which led me to think about my aunt hanging on every word, literally clinging onto every word because she didn't want us to leave. But its true idiomatic meaning is quite different; to pay great attention to every word said by an individual, usually a person who you admire.

I then tried "the long good-bye" but that answer had already been suggested by Mr Hen. A similar phrase which would carry a similar meaning might be, dragging out goodbyes. Google gives 741 results, which isn't too bad and on top of that, it's self-explanatory.

My third suggestion is a neologism, be glued to a door knob describing that moment when a guest's hand is stuck firmly on the door knob.

For half an hour, she hung on every word she said. She just didn't want us to leave.

She dragged out her goodbyes for thirty minutes before leaving.

She was glued to the door knob for thirty minutes, I thought she'd never leave.

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    "Glued to the door knob" almost works. Thanks for the suggestions!
    – Marthaª
    Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 14:56
  • Indeed, "dragging out the goodbyes" is, really, the only commonish-phrase for this in Englsh.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 11:15
  • "glued to" doesn't really work: "glued to-" phrases come from "glued to the TV" (or today - "glued to stack overflow")
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 11:16

The closest actual phrase used around this concept in English is

"I thought they'd never leave"

It doesn't absolutely specifically refer to the Argentinian- / Irish- / Hungarian- / etc. final-stage dragging out the goodbyes literally at the door, while standing up, but it can be used that way in context. (Indeed, the same applies to dilly-dally.)

The fact is, there is no specific "at the doorway" phrase in English. Other than, regionally, " Goodbyes".

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