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Japanese Honorifics

You can learn the meaning of Japanese honorifics such as chan and kun.

I’ve recently heard more people would like to know the meanings of Japanese honorifics. Japanese honorifics are endings added to the end of people’s names to explain them. Some people have become confused as to what to use. What do you use when referring to your mom, friend, or lover you may ask? All theses questions and more will be answered in my article.

The four most used Japanese honorifics


San-is a term of respect used after someone’s name. You can never be wrong with san you can offend no one when using san. It best to use san after someone’s name if you don’t know them. It not very smart to refer to yourself as san since this can be seen as thinking very high of yourself. Example you meet a classmate who you don’t know you can say hello Brandon-san. Overall san will almost never offend someone if you meet someone and don’t know what to use just use san.


Sama-is a extreme version of san it’s better to use sama when referring to adults or athuority figures. Like san it’s disrespectful to use sama after your name this can be seen as thinking high of yourself. Some people may use sama after their friend’s name as a joke. Examples are hello Mrs.davis-sama. A joke of sama would be a friend of yours who thinks high of themself you would call Austin-sama or Dawn-sama. Overall sama is ok to use and a person will probably never be offended but you’ll barely ever be called sama.


Chan-is a term of endearment used between lovers, friends, and family-members. Unlike san or sama it’s ok to refer to yourself as chan though this is usually done by kids. Male names are often shortened when being called chan which is common for males an example would be shortening Kevin-chan to Ke-chan. Chan when referring to friends would mean just friend or buddy. Chan when two lovers are referring to each-other would mean honey, sweetie, or love. When a family member is referring to someone as chan this is usually the child it can mean sweetie or love an example would be ”Bye Kevin-chan have a nice day at school.” It’s best to be careful when referring to a someone you don’t know by chan they can take it the wrong way. Overall it’s best to refer to children and women as chan. 


Kun-is a term used mostly on males it’s used toward someone younger than them or the same age as them. Like chan referring to yourself as kun is seen as being ok. Referring to someone older or more important then you as kun can come off as offensive. Some masculine girls or women are referred to as kun but, calling a women or girl whether they are masculine or not can be seen as offensive an example would be saying hello dude or man to a girl or women. Overall when using kun it’s best to use it toward males only.

Least used japanese honorifics

  1. Boku-is a masculine word used in 3rd person mostly by males
  2. Chii-is like a short version of chan mostly used to refer to one-self in third person used by kids mostly
  3. ko-means child used mostly toward kids an example would be usa-ko
  4. Onii-chan/Onii-san/Anii-san/Anii-chan-means big brother the san at the end usually is used to be more respectful the chan at the end is usually used to mean friend
  5. Onee-chan/Onee-san/Ane-chan/Ane-san- means big sister the san at the end usually is used to be more respectful the chan at the end is usually used to mean friend
  6. otouto-means younger brother
  7. imouto-means younger sister

My conclusion is that japanese honorifics can help you, so it’s best to always know the meaning of each. 

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