Using “san,” “kun” And “chan” When Speaking Japanese
This title is no longer used in daily conversation, but it is still used in some types of written business correspondence, as well as on certificates and awards, and in written correspondence in tea ceremonies. Chan (ちゃん) is a diminutive suffix; it expresses that the speaker finds a person endearing. Thus, using chan with a superior’s name would be condescending and rude. In general, chan is used for babies, young children, and teenage girls. Chan may be used for younger boys, but the name dies off unless you are his sister.
Sama (様, さま) is a significantly more respectful version of san. It is used primarily in addressing or referring to people much higher in rank than oneself, toward one’s customers, and sometimes toward people one greatly admires. Japanese honorifics are an important way to express respect, formality, and friendship to those you interact with.
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For instance, a male student whose name is “Takubi Sugimoto” can be addressed as “Sugimoto san” or “Sugimoto kun” by his teachers. First, You may drop the honorifics only when referring to your spouse, younger family members, close friends, and confidantes. A very familiar term, “~ chan （～ちゃん）” is often attached to children’s names when calling them by their given names. It can also be attached to kinship terms in a childish language. Although traditionally honorifics are not applied to oneself, some young women adopt the childish affectation of referring to themselves in the third person using chan. For example, a young woman named Kanako might call herself Kanako-chan rather than using a first person pronoun.
— ｻﾝﾁｬﾝ (@sanchan1a) May 24, 2022
So at school, the students in higher grades than oneself are senpai. Students of the same or lower grade are not senpai, nor are teachers. San can also be attached to the names of animals or even inanimate objects.
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However, one common and important way honorific speech is applied is in the prefixes and suffixes we use to refer to other people indirectly and to address them directly. If you’re wondering, what do chan, kun, san, and sama mean? In this guide to the most common Japanese honorifics added to names, you’ll learn Japanese suffix meanings so you know which one to use and when.
- As mentioned at the start of this piece, honorific speech doesn’t end at names.
- It can be used as a suffix following someone’s name or replace their name entirely.
- That’s because さま is a formal honorific suffix usually used to refer to one individual instead of a company as a whole.
- Since san is less formal than sama, using san for clients may sound too casual and should be avoided.
- 呼び捨て should not be used to refer to someone who is older or has a higher status than you, such as your boss or teacher.
Additionally, “~kun” isn’t used between women or when addressing one’s superiors. Junior and senior students are organized via a senpai/kōhai system. Also in some systems of karate, O-Sensei is the title of the head of the style. This is how the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba is often referred to by practitioners of that art. The O- prefix itself, translating roughly as “great” or “major”, is also an honorific.