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The Japanese Honorifics/Suffixes Thread

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default The Japanese Honorifics/Suffixes Thread

Post by Laramie Castiel on 17/05/13, 10:15 am

I was inspired to make this topic after posting this list in another thread. "[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]". I thought this would be a great idea for at least a referential thread. I originally asked for permission, but I didn't get a reply in the matter and decided that this is too good an opportunity to pass up. Hope it helps you guys!

In order to understand Japanese honorifics better, I want to explain a bit about the implications of using nicknames, given names and family names.

Nicknames are always the most informal choice, and is typically only used between close friends. In less common scenarios, they can be used to bully or otherwise, as an insult. An example of a nickname used as an insult would be Jeremiah Gottwald from Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch. After a certain incident, his colleagues and
superiors alike started to call him "Orange-kun".

Given names are also an informal choice, but not as much as a nickname. In most cases, this indicates a high level of closeness. You'll commonly see this between good friends, especially of the same gender. Occasionally, given names with no honorifics are used as an insult or the speaker's show of not respecting the recipient. This is commonly seen in Japanese media in rough and/or delinquent characters.

Family names are much more commonly used in general. Two people can be close to one another, but still refer to each other by their last names. You see this often in close friends of opposing genders. Sometimes, a character is simply very polite. In Japanese businesses and services, customers are referred to by their family names. Family names are the most formal and polite and in general, indicating a lower level of closeness.


[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Buchou (部長)
Spoiler:

"-Buchou", or simply just "buchou" on its own, is a respectful way to refer to one's chief in a workplace department, or the leader of a school club or team. Examples of characters with this standing: Kanakubo-buchou as seen in Starry Sky, Oko-buchou as seen in Haatoful Kareshi.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Dono (殿)
Spoiler:

Though it basically translates to "lord" or "master", it isn't the honorific to use to refer to a noble. Rather, it could be seen as a very polite "Mr." In fiction, it is commonly seen used in an affectionate manner to refer to one somebody respects or acknowledges to have greater skill in a certain discipline (usually combatitive). Examples of characters with this standing: Sawada-dono as seen in Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Kakuzu-dono as seen in Naruto.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Chan (ちゃん)
Spoiler:

Another one that is commonly encountered, "-chan" is a casual and informal feminine honorific. Mostly used by females to refer to other females, the usage of "-chan" implies a fair level of closeness. Despite being a feminine honorific, it's not against the rules to use it to refer to a male, but this can be rude even when close to somebody. "-Chan" is also often seen with nicknames, as mostly as a term of endearment. For example, a girl with a first name "Ayumi" might be referred to as "Ayu-chan" by her friends, and a guy with a family name "Himeno" might be referred to as "Hime-chan" by his friends. Other uses of "-chan" include:

~ Somebody (usually a young female) referring to cute animals. Examples: neko-chan, hiyoko-chan.
~ A (usually) close older family member's affectionate way to refer to a younger member. Examples: A mother referring to her son "Takuto" as "Taku-chan", an uncle referring to his niece "Ayame" as "Ayame-chan".
~ A way to demean or insult another, especially when combined with a given name. A good example is here, in Naruto. Possible spoilers, so if you're interested in Naruto, read at your own risk.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Kaichou (会長)
Spoiler:

"-Kaichou" or just "kaichou" on its own, is a respectful way to refer to a president of a company. The closest English translation would be "chairman". Examples of characters with this standing: Shiranui-kaichou as seen in Starry Sky, Hakamichi-kaichou as seen in Katawa Shoujo.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Kun (君; くん)
Spoiler:

An informal masculine honorific that is also quite common. Though a masculine suffix, "-kun" can still be applied to females. In general usage, "-kun" is an honorific used by females to address males that they're friends with, or otherwise, know for a long time. Though typically used to indicate closeness, some women refer to their male
acquaintances with "-kun" in place of "-san". While it isn't technically polite, it's not treated as a big deal. It's also sometimes used by some senior colleagues to refer to junior colleagues, regardless of gender. Finally, you may have already come across a teacher referring to his students with "-kun".

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Nee; Nee-chan; Nee-san (姉; 姉ちゃん; 姉さん)
Spoiler:

It depends on which one you use, the politeness and smaller definitions change. Adding "o" before the "nee" parts adds more formality and politeness. In general, it means "older sister", or as a way to refer to a young lady. "nee-chan" could be seen as the most informal and least polite, while "nee-san" is the most formal and polite out of the three. "Nee" rests somewhere in the middle. When referring to somebody else's older sister in conversation (for example, something like "how is your older sister doing?"), most typically use "(o)nee-san". In usage to just refer to a young lady who isn't related to you, it would be a scenario like "that young lady over there."

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Nii; Nii-chan; Nii-san (兄; 兄ちゃん; 兄さん)
Spoiler:

It depends on which one you use, the politeness and smaller definitions change. Adding "o" before the "nii" parts adds more formality and politeness. In general, it means "older brother", or as a way to refer to a young man. "nii-chan" could be seen as the most informal and least polite, while "nii-san" is the most formal and polite out of the three. "Nii" rests somewhere in the middle. When referring to somebody else's
older brother in conversation (for example, something like "how is your older brother doing?"), most typically use "(o)nii-san". In usage to just refer to a young man who isn't related to you, it would be a scenario like "that young man over there."

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Sama (様)
Spoiler:

"-Sama" is highly respectful and formal. Commonly seen in settings where there is a nobility system of some kind. In customer service, representatives always refer to their customers with the "-sama" honorific. For example, if you go to a department store, you'd certainly be referred to as "okyaku-sama", which translates to "esteemed customer". A utility bill you receive might be addressed to you as "[Family name]-sama." Also used by some to address another they greatle respect or admire.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -San (さん) *-Han (はん) in Kansai dialect.
Spoiler:

"-San" is definitely an honorific us otome gamers will come across a lot, if not, the most. It is polite, but not formal. "-San" basically translates to "Mr." and "Miss/Mrs./Ms." The recipient's marital status and gender doesn't matter, so the unmarried Miss Castiel and the married Mr. Winchester would both be referred to as "Castiel-san" and "Winchester-san", respectively. Other usages you may come across, or already have include:
~ Somebody referring to an animal. This is commonly used by children, and is considered to be immature. Examples: neko-san, ahiru-san.
~ Somebody referring to a brand, company or an organisation. Examples: Otomate-san, Rejet-san.
~ A way to refer to a type of store. Examples: yaoya-san, honya-san.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Senpai/Sempai (先輩)
Spoiler:

"-Senpai" is a respectful honorific used by underclassmen or junior employees to
refer to upperclassmen or senior employees. Age or gender doesn't matter- if a student at your school is a grade above you even if you're older, or a younger employee has been working at the company longer than you have, they'd still be referred to through the use of "-senpai". Similar to usage in workplaces, in clubs, a newer member or a less experienced/skilled member usually refers to senior members as "-senpai".

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] -Ue (上)
Spoiler:

Though not common anymore, it has been encountered enough times in Japanese
media to warrant an entry here. It is a very respectful honorific, and commonly seen used amongst the noble or wealthy in fiction. For example, a daughter of a wealthy or noble family might refer to her father as "Chichi-ue", or her older sister as "Ane-ue".

What does it mean when an honorific isn't used?
It really depends on the scenario, but for the most part, it indicates that the referer is very close with the recipient. In Japanese, this is called "yobisute ni suru (呼び捨てにする)" or "yobisute (呼び捨て)". Using a family name without an honorific does indicate a high level of closeness, but in most cases, referring to another by their given name without honorifics denotes the most closeness, alongside nicknames. Rude characters and people tend to drop honorifics. This is commonly seen in
Japanese fiction in delinquent characters.

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Post by Sayolizz on 12/08/13, 11:52 am

This helped me. Thanks ^_^  My sister really bothered asking me -_- And because I saw this I answered here question ^_^

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Post by misakihanazono on 03/11/13, 11:44 pm

that really cleared things up in my head , thank you very much ^_^ 

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Post by Danonito Manestra on 08/11/13, 02:08 am

thanks for posting!

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Post by Laramie Castiel on 08/11/13, 08:51 am

No problem, everyone! I'm glad I could help. smile

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Post by smf4297 on 16/01/15, 09:02 pm

Ah, finally a much clearer info without the hassle of too much examples.

Thank you so much, Laramie Castiel-san! :D

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Post by sun_chan on 24/02/16, 09:18 pm

Thank you for sharing!

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Post by Kaimu on 24/03/16, 12:44 pm

Thank you: 3 I learned something new for yourself

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Post by icingcandies on 01/06/16, 01:58 pm

This helped!!! (and it was fun to read xD)
Thank you for spending time crafting this. Love it! Love it!

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