What does it mean "a while ago"? For how much time in the past it is said to be definite?

I saw it in the context of a video on Youtube (0:36)

Paraphrasing, the conversation was

Rakesh: Hi, Darren. Do you remember me? You took my sister out on a date. She's slightly larger.
Darren: Maybe. I think so. A while ago?
Rakesh: Yeah, it was a little while ago, right. I know, it's been a little while.

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    It could be anything - last week, last month, last year. – Mick Jan 11 '17 at 18:22
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    It means "some time back". How long ago is left unspecified. – verbose Jan 11 '17 at 18:25
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    So actually it can be replaced with "in the past" or "recently"? – Judicious Allure Jan 11 '17 at 18:26
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    @Industrious It's how the speaker looks at it, not the reality itself. So, if they think it's a while ago, they'll say "a while ago". If they think it's only recently, they'll say "only recently". If they want to be explicit, they might say things like "fifteen minutes ago", "six months ago", "last year", "two years ago", etc. – Damkerng T. Jan 11 '17 at 18:31
  • You really have to judge from context. In the video, the suggestion is at least a month or two, since the person being pranked says "that was some time ago" that he dated Rada. There must be a context in which it's hard to believe that she "can't stop talking about him" -- why didn't she call him sooner, why didn't she return his calls, etc. – Andrew Jan 11 '17 at 19:13

a while ago means some time ago. The period of time we're talking about can be a day, a week, a couple of months or, possibly, even a couple of years. It is always relative to the situation in which this expression is used.

Example #1:

— When was the last time you saw Mike?
— Actually, it was quite a while ago.

Here, it probably means a long time ago like a year or two ago.

Example #2:

— Is the boss in?
— He was here a while ago, but I don't know where he is now. Maybe, he went to lunch.

In this example, a while ago probably means just a couple of hours ago.

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    I disagree. Granted, it's possible to say things like You said that just a while ago, or He was here a little while ago, where we're explicitly conveying that it wasn't very long ago. But in general, the implication of a while ago is that it was quite a long time ago, not relatively recent. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 11 '17 at 18:31
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    @FumbleFingers I disagree with your disagreement :) From my understanding of the phrase, it's just the straight usage of 'while', which Google defines as 'a period of time'. It gives an example sentence of "We chatted for a while". Personally, that's how I'd take it: 'an unspecified-length-of-time ago'. – anotherdave Jan 11 '17 at 21:21
  • @anotherdave: We're specifically talking about a while ago here. I'm quite sure if you were to check a large number of written instances of that, you'd find that in the vast majority of cases, the implication will be as I said. As regards We chatted for a while, I suggest that quite a while is far more likely than just a while (where both effectively emphasise the "essence of while-ness"), and that this in itself supports my contention that by default, a while is a long, not short, period of time. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 12 '17 at 13:42

A while as a noun means a length of time. This length can be different according to the situation.

"When did that happen?" "Oh, it was a while ago (a long time ago).

I haven't seen him for a while (for a long time)

If you stayed somewhere for a short while or you were somewhere quite a while, it's clear without explanation.

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