Japanese honorifics deserve to be something the takes a small while to acquire your head around when you’re discovering the language.

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But they’re critical part the Japanese, so friend must find out them.

Here’s why Japanese honorifics are important. If there’s one thing to know about Japanese culture and language, it’s that whatever is extra polite. Watch any kind of Japanese movie or show, and also you’ll witness many of ways the Japanese present respect come one another. They bow, have collection phrases to display appreciation, and include -さん (-san) come the finish of names.

If friend look at the subtitles if watching a Japanese movie, you can have noticed the -san converts as “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, or “Ms.” This is a Japanese honorific and the most typical one.

But over there are other Japanese surname endings too? In fact, there are a lot of of means to show respect in Japanese with honorifics!

Let’s take it a look at few of them, and also how you have the right to start using them in day-to-day speech.

How to use Japanese Honorifics

Japanese honorifics have two key forms: prefix honorifics and suffix honorifics. Many of what we’ll be including right here are Japanese suffixes because there are so many an ext of them.

Now, right here are the 4 main points you should recognize when utilizing honorifics:

Use honorifics for others, yet never usage them when talking around yourself or your familyWhen in doubt, use -san, or ask what the other person prefersYou deserve to be much more informal with your partner (classmates or coworkers that the exact same status and age), but you need to be much more formal through those over you or older.You will always include the honorific come someone’s critical name uneven they tell you otherwise or you have actually a close relationship with them.
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Here"s a rapid “Japanese Honorifics” video I make To gain You Started:


The 4 Most common Japanese Honorifics

San in Japanese

As I claimed earlier, -さん (-san) in Japanese means “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, or “Ms.” It’s sex neutral and also is offered regardless that marital status, which makes it easy! that the honorific most frequently used. You’ll use it because that strangers, acquaintances, and coworkers. You’ll also say that in connect with job titles prefer お巡りさん (omawarisan, “police officer”) and also 店員さん (tenninsan, “shop clerk”). You can’t go wrong using -さん.

Sama in Japanese

So those the -様 (-sama) Japanese meaning? There’s no a direct translation into English, yet -sama add to a greater level of respect. It’s offered for world of high ranking (like in a company), or customers. Yes, as a customer, the shop salesperson will usage your last surname + -様 because customers in Japan space treated with the utmost respect.

From time come time, girlfriend may additionally hear -殿 (-dono) in Japanese. Traditionally, -dono way something like “master” or “lord” and also it"s much less respectful than -sama. Nowadays, you’ll hear the in old samurai movies or as a joke in between friends or family.

Chan in Japanese

This one deserve to be tricky, only since of the dorn impression in the West from anime. You’ll often hear “-chan is because that girls, and also -kun is for boys.” however that’s not quite right. In reality, -ちゃん (-chan) is for anything cute. That method you’ll usually connect -ちゃん to girls names, young boys, babies, and also even occasionally pets! however that’s no all – you will do it hear it used with celebrity names, boyfriends, girlfriends, nearby friends, siblings, grandparents… You obtain the gist.

Most often, you will do it hear it provided with someone’s first name instead of your last, or v a reduce cute nickname. For instance, Usagi in seafarer Moon call her friend Mamoru “Mamo-chan,” a shortened kind of his very first name to add -chan. Japanese superstar Utada Hikaru is recognized as “Hikki,” but fans might speak to her “Hikki-chan.” and also you might contact your larger sister “Nee-chan” instead of “Oneesan.”

Kun in Japanese

While -くん (-kun) is most often used for younger boys, it’s not exclusive. -Kun’s Japanese meaning expresses respect because that someone the “lower” condition than friend or, many often, younger 보다 you. That could mean they’ve operated at a firm for much less time 보다 you have, they’re her junior in school, castle a child, or a near friend. Friend can deal with a woman or girl by -kun, yet it’s usually provided by ladies to men. They might call their boyfriends or couple -くん to display affection, choose -ちゃん. Likewise, ladies often call children, particularly boys, by -くん.

Prefix Japanese Honorifics

These are the Japanese honorifics the go at the start of a Japanese word.

There are just two prefix honorifics: お- (o-) and also ご- (go-). And also there are just a grasp of instances where they"re included before names, prefer お母さん (Okaasan, “Mom”) and also お父さん (Otousan, “Dad”). The “o” in ~ the start is one honorific that mirrors politeness to your parents, yet it’s not unusual to hear “Kaasan” or “Tousan” choose yelling “Ma!” or “Pa!”

Besides familial names, the “o-” prefix can affix to royalty, martial arts teachers, or the head the state.

O- and also go- prefixes are typically used because that nouns the are far-ranging in Japanese culture, or life-giving (and have actually kami, or a god-like nature). In this respect, they’re bound to shinto traditions. Below are a few examples:

お神様 (okamisama): God, or godsお茶 (ocha): teaお酒 (osake): rice wineお金 (okane): moneyお水 (omizu): waterご両親 (goryoushin): parentsご家族 (gokazoku): family

The general ascendancy is if the word is Japanese in origin, it supplies “o-”. And if it’s Chinese in beginning (using the Chinese, or on-reading the kanji) climate you use go-.

But don’t concern too much around memorizing this! You’ll just pick that up as you usage the words.

The few mentioned here are many common, and also many rather you fixed hear. Even if you usage the dorn prefix, nothing fret. Japanese speakers will still understand, and they recognize you’re learning.

Other Japanese Formalities You need to Know

Besides the main four honorifics you usage on a personal level, there are other honorifics supplied based on particular job titles, relationships, and also social situations. You can still constantly get by with -さん (-san), however sometimes an ext specific honorifics are an ext appropriate. Some even take place of the other person’s name altogether.

Japanese Honorifics at Work

In the office, friend can call your coworkers -さん (-san) or also -ちゃん (-chan) or -くん (-kun), however what around your boss? as soon as talking to your boss, you’ll contact him 部長 (buchou). This means “manager,” and also you deserve to use it v their last name or without. For example, you have the right to say “Tanaka-buchou” or just “Buchou.” Both room respectful. Very same goes for the company president, which is 社長 (shachou).

But, once you’re referring to someone else’s ceo or president that works in ~ a various company, girlfriend would use -様 (-sama).

Japanese Honorifics in Newspapers, the News, and also Formal Documents

You will hardly ever hear this one in spoken speech external of the news, however it’s a good one come know: -氏 (-shi). This one refers to you, the reader, and all the various other readers the a formal letter, document, academic research paper, or newspaper article. It additionally refers to a famous person or human being of interest in a news post or segment, who the speaker has actually never met. When it’s been provided with the person’s surname (for instance, “Tanaka-shi”), it"s offered by itself to refer to the person.

Japanese Honorifics in School

In school, friend can address someone merely by their condition title. Friend can speak to you teacher 先生 (sensei) or attach it to your name, favor “Tanaka-sensei.” even teachers who have a PhD, favor in college, are often still referred to as sensei. Occasionally you can hear this professors described as 博士 (hakase), or “Tanaka-hakase*. This no common, but it converts as “Dr. Tanaka.” It’s much more common in American institutions to change the address of a teacher through a PhD, though.

Besides teachers, there are also Japanese formalities because that students over and below you. If you’re talking to an upper-classman, girlfriend would contact them 先輩 (senpai), or “Tanaka-senpai.” because that those in the class below you, you can say 後輩 (kouhai). Yet unlike senpai, which mirrors respect, kouhai can be a little bit condescending. So, it’s not really provided as one honorific suffix.

Japanese Honorifics at Home

Like I stated before, you use the o- prefix once talking to family members. This is a list of all those familial honorific titles:

Mom: お母さん (Okaasan) / 母 (Haha)Dad: お父さん (Otousan) / 父 (Chichi)Older brother: お兄さん (Oniisan) / 兄 (Ani)Older sister: お姉さん (Oneesan) / 姉 (Ane)Younger brother: 弟さん (Otoutosan) / 弟 (Otouto)Younger sister: 妹さん (Imoutosan) / 妹 (Imouto)Uncle: 叔父さん (Ojisan) / 叔父 (Oji)Aunt: 叔母さん (Obasan) / 叔母 (Oba)Grandfather: お祖父さん (Ojiisan) / 祖父 (Sofu)Grandmother: お祖母さん (Obaasan) / 祖母 (Sobo)

You’ll likewise use this terms as soon as talking about someone else’s family, such as 田中さんのお母さん (Tanakasan no Okaasan, “Mr. Tanaka’s mother”). But, for your own family, you usage the “o-” prefix names only once talking to your household members, or about a household member to an additional family member. Once talking about your own family members to others outside your household circle, you would use their humble names. So, from above, “Okaasan” is formal and also you speak to your mom by that name, and also anyone else’s mom. When talking around your mother to others, you speak “Haha.”

The factor for the change? Japanese people like to present respect to their family and other people. But they favor to it is in humble when talking around themselves and their family to others. It is why you’ll never include an honorific to your very own name as soon as talking about yourself. And also why friend drop the respectful “o-” prefix names and opt because that the humble names once talking around your very own family.

Japanese Honorifics in Relationships

For boyfriends and also girlfriends, you’ll frequently use -ちゃん or -くん, or contact them by their name. You can also call castle 彼 (kare, “he” or “boyfriend”) and 彼女 (kanojo, “she” or “girlfriend”) as soon as talking to others. If you want to be specifically romantic, you deserve to use the person’s name plus のきみ (no kimi, prefer “Tanaka no kimi” or “Ayumi no kimi”) to say “My beloved.” it’s a little heavy, and it’s mainly used in love letters.

If you’re married, you can contact your husband 夫 (otto) to others, and also 旦那さん (dannasan) once talking come him. Dannasan is respectful, but likewise a little “cute.” It’s practically like a type of PDA in Japanese, therefore usually, it’s said behind closed doors, while making use of “otto” in public. The same is true because that 妻 (tsuma) and 奥さん (okusan). Tsuma is just how you refer to your mam in public, if “okusan” is a cute, respectful term used when addressing your wife at home.

If you’re talking or asking about someone else’s husband or wife, though, you would certainly refer your husband together ご主人 (goshujin) and also their mam as 奥さん (okusan).

Japanese Honorifics through Kids

When talking v children, it’s typical to say -ちゃん or -くん, yet there space a pair other cutesy name you have the right to use! especially for babies.

-たん (-tan) is a type of baby talk, a mispronunciation the -chan through young children. The an affectionate ax you have the right to use for young children, especially toddlers. Choose -chan, it’s provided a bit more for girls 보다 boys.

Then yes sir -ぼう (-bou), a cuter type of -kun offered for young boys and also toddlers. This one is only offered for boys though due to the fact that it means something like “little prince.”

Japanese Honorifics in Religion

In some faiths, you have actually priests and pastors. In Japanese, a priest (司祭, shisai) walk by 神父 (shinpu), which equates to the title of “Father” in English. In English, a Catholic priest can be simply “Father”, of you can include their name, prefer “Father Dominic”. The exact same is true in Japanese. You deserve to say Shinpu or ドミニク神父 (Dominiku-shinpu).

In good news faiths, the church leader is 牧師 (bokushi), which method “pastor.” similar to shinpu, you have the right to use bokushi by chin to address the pastor of the church, or use it v their name prefer ドミニク牧師 (Dominiku-bokushi).

Japanese Honorifics in Politics, Royalty, and also Leadership

There room a many titles because that politicians, civilization leaders, and also royalty. Yet the most typical you’ll hear in Japanese are:

首相 (shushou): element minister大統領 (daitouryou): president皇帝 (koutei): emperor皇后 (kougou): empress閣下 (kakka): excellency, because that heads the state, ambassadors, and other high-ranking dignitaries殿下(denka): imperial highness

For example, 安倍首相 (Abe-Shushou, prime Minister Abe) and トランプ大統領 (Toranpu-daitouryou, president Trump). For royalty, there"s イギリスの殿下、エリザベス女王 (Igirisu no denka, Erizabesu-jou, “Her Highness of England, Queen Elizabeth”). And Emperor Akihito is 秋人皇帝 (Akihito-koutei) and also his wife, Empress Michiko is みちこ皇后 (Michiko-kougou).

There aren’t plenty of left in the world, however a sovereign king or queen is 陛下 (heika) rather of denka, i beg your pardon is supplied for non-sovereign royalty. Yet 陛下 is still used when officially announced the emperor that Japan.

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For royal family members, you would say -王 (-ou) for king, -女王 (-jou) because that queen, -王子 (-ouji) for prince, and -王女 (-oujo) because that princess. Such together ハリー王子 (Harii-ouji, “Prince Harry”).

Mastering Japanese Honorifics take away Time yet Goes a lengthy Way

Phew! it is a the majority of Japanese titles and also formalities. That takes time to master them all, but this is a good, large chunk of all the major ones you will do it hear in different social cases or while reading the news. If you grasp the main 4 you should know – san, sama, chan, and kun – you’ll be one action ahead and also sure to do others happy with how polite you are in Japanese!