ichinitsuite

Japanese honorifics

  • -San: is the most common honorific and is equivalent to Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. It is the all-purpose honorific and can be used in any situation were politeness is required
  • -Sama: is one level higher than "-san" and is used to confer great respect
  • -Dono: this one comes from the word "tono" which means "lord". It is an even higher level than "-sama" and confers utmost respect
  • -Kun: suffix used at the end of boys' names to express familiarity or endearment. It is also sometimes used by men among friends, or when addressing someone younger or of a lower station
  • -Chan: is used to express endearment, mostly towards girls. It is also used for little boys, pets, and even among lovers. It gives a sense of childish cuteness
  • Bozu: informal way to refer to a boy similar to the English terms of "kid" or "squirt"
  • Senpai/ Sempai: title which suggests that the addressee is one's senior in a group or organization. It is most often used in a school setting, where underclassmen refers to their upperclassmen as "sempai". It can also be used in the workplace, such as when a newer employee addresses an employee who has seniority in the company
  • Kohai: is the opposite of "sempai" and is used towards underclassmen in school or newcomers in the workplace. It connotes that the addressee is of a lower station
  • Sensei: literally meaning "one who has come before", this title is used for teachers, doctors, or masters of any profession or art
  • -[Blank]: is usually forgotten in these lists, but it is perhaps the most significant difference between Japanese and English. The lack of honorific means that the speaker has permission to address the person in a very intimate way. Usually only family, spouses, or very close friends have this kind of permission. Known as yobisute, it can be gratifying when someone who has earned the intimacy starts to call one by one's name without the honorific. But when that intimacy hasn't been earned, it can be very insulting.