Skip to main content

Honorifics in Japan


Honorifics in Japan

Japanese people are one of the politest people. They follow seniority not just by age but also by status or position. It is very important to take note of the senior-junior relationship when using the Honorifics in Japan or the hierarchy. Honorific suffixes are used and attached at the end of each name, regardless of gender.

As Japan is a patriarchal country, which means that women must always respect men, though, over time, gender equality has been seen slowly entering the norms of Japanese society though not as much as other countries, but there are already women holding a higher position in modern Japan.


or – are Japanese honorifics prefixes that can be applied to things or people. is a prefix used for Japanese reading or くんよみ (kunyomi) while is for Chinese reading or おんよみ (onyomi). For example, ごりょうしん means Parents. りょうしん is a term without honorifics for Parents.


Four Basic Japanese honorifics:


さま (sama) – the most formal honorifics.  This honorific is mostly used for divine entities, customers, or people being introduced to in an event or people we admire. We often hear this honorific in Television, movies, or events.


                かみさま (kami sama) – God 

                おうさま (ou sama)– King (Majesty)

さま is also used by some people after their name for self-proclamation, arrogance, or sarcasm. We often hear this in Anime.

                おれさま  (ore sama) – Myself


さん (san) – the most common honorifics. It can be used in formal or informal situations regardless of the person’s gender. The English terms equivalent for this honorific are Mr., Ms., Mrs., Sir, Ma’am.

It is better to use this honorific if one does not know the status of a person or to a stranger.

くん (kun) – this honorific is used by people with a higher position to their subordinates. It can be addressed to junior colleagues by male/female seniors. Women use くん to male whom they share affection or someone close to them or younger than them but they never use this suffix to someone older than them or have a higher position than them.

くん is mostly used by boys, young and adult men. It is hardly used in offices but senior employees would sometimes address their subordinates with くん attached to its name.

In anime, we often hear male character calling a female character with くん attached to her name but we never heard a female character calling another female character with くん. The reason for this is くん is like a masculine honorific suffix that is used by boys and men.

If in doubt to what honorific suffixes you need to use in addressing someone, it is better to use さん than くん.

ちゃん (chan) – this honorific suffix expresses affection or emotional attachment to a person whether male or female. It is used in addressing children, close friends, family members as おとうちゃん、かあちゃん or cute objects or animals. Never use ちゃん to a stranger or to someone who holds a higher position.

Do not use honorific suffixes into one’s own name. It will show arrogance or self-proclaim confidence. Also, if you do not know which suffixes you will use or you don’t know the position of someone, use
さん in addressing that person.


Other Japanese suffixes:

せんぱい (senpai) – this is a very famous suffix. We often hear this in Anime, movies or dramas. This suffix is used to address someone who is older or senior than one self. It can used in senior students or senior colleagues, or in business industry, someone who has gained more experience.

こうはい (kouhai) – this suffix is the opposite of せんぱい. It is used for junior students or colleagues. 

せんせい (sensei) – this suffix is not only exclusive in addressing teachers but it can also be used in addressing someone else profession. It is used in respecting someone’s achievement in mastering a higher skill or have a lot of experiences in some field like arts, science, or other skills. We often hear this suffix in addressing teacher (かかしせんせい) or doctor (いしゃさん). 

See you in the next blog. 

This is Ringo.

If you want to learn my previous post, you can check it through the link below: 

>> Let’s talk about Family

>> Let’s talk about time

>> Basic Greetings in Hiragana

>> Summary - June


Popular posts from this blog

How to say your age in Japanese?

  How to say your age in Japanese?  The counter for age in Japanese is さい (sai).    In the previous blog, I’ve already discussed how to count in Japanese, so it is easy to tell your age in Japanese. So, if someone asks your age, you can say the number and put さい after it.    Example:                 60 years old – ろくじゅっさい (rokujussai)                33 years old – さんじゅうさん さい (sanjuusan sai)                20 years old – はたち (hatachi)           15 years old – じゅうごさい (juugo sai)                  8 years old – はっさい                  1-year-old – いっさい (issai)     For 1, 8 and 20 years old, the Japanese age is read differently from the other numbers. Instead of いちさい for 1 year old, it is いっさい while for 8 years old, it is はっさい instead of はちさい . F or 20 years old, instead of saying にじゅうさい , use はたち without putting さい .      なんさいですか ? (nansai desu ka?) – how old are you? おいくつですか ? (o ikutsu desu ka?) – how old are you? (Formal way of asking someone’s age)   とし (toshi) – Japanese word

Ten-Ten (“) and Maru (˚) (Japanese Character)

  The small dashes (“) is called Ten-Ten. While the small circle is called Maru ( ˚ ). Not all Hiragana and Katakana characters have Ten-Ten or Maru. There are only 20 characters that have changes in pronunciation when Ten-Ten and Maru are added. For Ten-ten:                              K”      à      G                        S”       à      Z                        T”      à      D                        H”      à      B For Maru:                             H ˚      à      B Don’t get confused with the change of pronunciation with H. Just remember that if H has Ten-Ten, it will be read as B while if H has Maru, the pronunciation is B.                                    Hiragana and Katakana Characters with Ten-Ten and Maru が ( ガ ) ga ぎ ( ギ ) gi ぐ ( グ ) gu げ ( ゲ ) ge ご ( ゴ ) go ざ ( ザ ) za じ ( ジ ) ji ず ( ズ ) zu ぜ ( ゼ ) ze ぞ (

Japanese Pronouns

Japanese Pronouns   What is Pronoun? According to, Pronoun is a pronoun used to refer to a speaker or the people/things that a speaker is referring to. It replaces a noun in a sentence. There are seven types of pronouns namely: the personal pronoun, the demonstrative pronoun, the interrogative pronoun, the relative pronoun, the indefinite pronoun, the reflexive pronoun, and the intensive pronoun. But today, I will only talk about personal pronouns.   In Japan, pronouns can be omitted in a sentence if both speaker and the person the speaker is referring to know the context of the sentence. Also, pronouns give importance to hierarchy, like respect for elders, seniority, or social order. It denotes the characteristics of the speaker or the person talking to like age, gender, and their relationships.   Pronoun in Japanese is だ い め い し (代名詞) read as Da i me i shi . Our focus for today’s blog is: I You  He  She We  They Personal Pronoun I Watas