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I know this will be really basic for a lot of you, but recently, I’ve noticed a lot of people having trouble with which honorific to put on the end of a name. Not only have I gotten several emails specifically asking what the difference between them, but I’ve also had a barrage of folks using the wrong ones when referring to me. I’ll give you a hint, only one of them is truly appropriate.

Let’s go down the list of name honorifics and review each one separately. It’s really good to know how to use each of these (if you don’t), since you can come across as pretty rude when you make a mistake!

San:

Overview: This is the most common. It can be used on boys or girls. It can be used in formal and (somewhat) informal situations. Pretty much, san is your fail safe when you don’t know which one ot use. You probably won’t get in trouble if you use this one, so it’s good to use with frequency.

Do Not: Refer to yourself as [your name]-san. This is very rude. You might as well start asking people to get on their knees and bow down to you. Only use this on other people.

Other Uses: You can also attach san to some nouns, usually jobs. For example, booksellers are called honya-san. I know that some uses like this are more common than others so I’d say it’s best not to jump to conclusions and start turning every noun you see into name-honorific enders.

Trivial Fact: Ever notice how a lot of Japanese usernames on the net end with three? I just read this on Wikipedia, and it completely makes sense. Since the number three in Japanese is san, some people use this to end their names. I think it’s clever, anyways.

Also, in the Kansai area of Japan (they speak a different dialect, kind of like how people in Texas would have “southern accents” in America), some people use han instead of san (apparently). I can’t confirm this from experience, but that’s what I read.

Sama

Overview: Most likely, you’ll never run into an appropriate situation to use sama, unless of course you want to be a little sarcastic. The only time you’ll be using sama is if 1) you’re working for a company and you’re talking to a customre, or 2) you want to be sarcastic about someone who thinks really highly about themselves.

Do Not: EVER refer to yourself as sama…well, that is, unless you’re making fun of yourself. Otherwise, there’s no reason to do it, and if you do it with a serious face, people will think you’re a big stuck up snob.

Trivial Fact: Aparently, there’s also a “Chama” version of sama. Typically, you would use this when talking to someone who is older.

Kun

Overview: This is where you start getting more casual. Kun is primarily used when refering to other males, usually by someone of high status to someone younger / lower status than them. A good example would be a teacher talking to a (usually male) student. Some (masculine) females get called (name)-kun, though this is less common.

Do Not: Use this on someone of higher status than you. That means teachers, people that are older than you, parents, etc. You get the picture. If you aren’t sure, then just use san – at least you’ll be safe that way.

Chan

Overview: Now we’re in deep waters. Chan is primarily used on children, female family members, lovers, and close friends. Really, it’s a term of indearment. Often times, one’s name will be shortened to add chan to it. For example, I get the Ko-chan treatment instead of Koichi-chan, which just sounds awkward.

Do Not: (once again), use it on anyone of higher status than you. If you are using chan, the person should be much younger, or you better know that person really well.

Trivial Fact: Unlike all the other name honorifics, it’s actually not too horrible to refer to yourself and add the chan to the end. Children do this a lot, but so do some adults. Adding chan to a name can sometimes become a nickname that’s used instead of the real name, at which point it becomes acceptable to refer to yourself while using the honorific.

Another interesting thing about chan is that it is paired up with ojii and obaa (oji-chan / oba-chan), roughly meaning grandma and grandpa. Once Gma and Gpa get old, they come full circle, and you get to use the honorific reserved for children on them. Poor guys.

Anyways…

If you were confused by that, then just know this is barely touching the surface. Knowing what name honorific to use in what situation is one of the easiest things to learn in terms of the whole hierarchy in Japanese speech. It gets so much worse. Anime, I think, will often give people the wrong idea when it comes to how to use san, kun, sama, & chan (another good reason to get yourself a teacher of some sort). Anyways, speaking of anime messing honorifics up, next time I’ll be talking about the difference between senpai, kohai, and sensei. Actually, come ot think of it, this might be one of the few things they might be getting right.

So, here’s the test. If you were to email me (or someone else you don’t really know), what honorific would you use?

If I were to email our author Erin, which one would I use?

If I were to email our other author Viet, which one would I use?

Lastly, here’s a trick question, what about Santa Claus?

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    Ugh, sama and chan are the worst.

    I just don’t like romanji’d honorifics, in general, I guess.

    Haha, did that come off a little harsh?

  • http://www.feitclub.com Daniel Feit

    I think I’ve heard people say “Santa-san” around Christmas.

    My favorite usage of “chan” is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is known in Japan as “Shuwa-chan.” It turns someone so physically imposing into something cute…he’s becomes an “adorable strongman” if you will.

  • http://kantanda.wordpress.com/ Mizuu

    Every time I write emails I use -san as a honorific.

    Chama comes from “chan” and “sama” and it is used mostly around family members (when the younger one is referring to the older one: sis, bro, mum, dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents) not to sound they have NO repect, but also that they are not turning cold shoulders to each other. Pretty nifty.

    Another trivia about sama is the fact, than when person working i the same place writes mail to each other they are in the same “uchi” but not too close – they write the honoryfics in katakana instead of kanji. As one of my Japanese teachers writing to some othe teacher stated “To show her that I respect her…. but not too much” (I find this adorable, and often noticed it in mails shown to me by various people).

    And came across Santa-san and Santa-ojii-sama/=san , so that is probably it. ;)

    Oh, and BTW, I think ou might hae added “sensei” to the overview (doctor, teachers, politians…) and senpai/kohai might also be useful.

  • tomususan

    Suffixes are so confusing that I am trying to omit them as much that is possible ;)

  • Djarno

    Thanks for the info. But now tell me what honorifics to use to degrade and belittle someone. I need to be able to bring the fire to any Japanese person who looks at me the wrong way, having found out his name, of course. I guess honorific wouldn’t be a good word for this. Maybe obtrectific is better. C’mon give me some obtrectifics, Koichi-kun (omg, alliteration).

    By the way, you might call me Djarno-sama as I do patronize this blog…with my time, not with my money, never with my money. Anyway, don’t let the fact that you’ve never seen a red cent from me stop you.

  • WOTDsctoo

    Ha!
    I think our sensei told us about this once, but I had forgotten. Thanks!

  • WOTDsctoo

    Santa Claus!?

    I think if this were a multiple choice test, the only one that I would be able to eliminate would be kun. Then I would guess….sama? But it looks like people are saying san…

  • Chimiko

    You know, I had a question at the tip of my tongue that I wanted to ask, but I just forgot it. >.>;; I’ll reply to this comment when I remember..~

  • JohtoKen

    僕は「エリさんで、ヴィエットさんで、サンタさん」で答えています。

  • Kitam

    If I were to email our author Erin, which one would I use? if u are lovers or close friends- chan

    If I were to email our other author Viet, which one would I use? if you lovers or close friends-chan -_-.. but id go with san… possibly sama.. since he seems to son you often

    Lastly, here’s a trick question, what about Santa Claus?.. if you were emailing santa, assuming your familiar.. id say oba-chan since hes old and adored.. if you were to just run into him at a meat market or something.. id think sama would be used

  • GodoHell

    Wonderfully informative. I think I’m sorta starting to understand it. I must say that I’m now appreciating the German language a little bit more as well. I was annoyed when I first learned that there was a formal way and informal way of speaking to people, but now that I’ve started learning Japanese, particularly in the case of addressing people, I’m kinda thankful that they only have two ways of addressing each other: formal and informal. :D

  • http://teko-chi.deviantart.com Teko

    You forgot “chi/ti” :’D

  • Chimiko

    O yeah!
    I remembered.

    When romanizing honorifics, most often we see a hyphen in between. But I’ve also seen people romanizing without anything in between… Is there an official, correct way to do it, or anything goes?

  • buratto

    You said “Some (masculine) females get called (name)-kun, though this is less common.” That’s not true, actually. Someone of a higher status can use kun to those of quite a lesser status indifferent of gender. A female’s masculinity doesnt matter really. And you didnt mention that its not necessary to use honorifics at all if you are talking to your close friend or lover, but thats kind of a modern trend i think.
    You could also write an article about titles used at work (primarily in the office) like kachou and bachou, and i think there is shachou.

  • Chimiko

    Doesn’t shacou mean boss or something?

  • buratto

    Kachou means section chief, shachou means company president/director. And bachou is prolly something along that line too, if it exists.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    don’t forget bancho, which is like “boss of gangstahs”

  • Julian

    I`d probably use -san for everyone.

    What does “-chin” mean? Is it just a cute variation of “-chan”?

  • spdrcd

    so what would 「貴様」be??
    would that be used to honor people to the highest??

  • http://www.multiculturalismoenbuenosaires.blogspot.com masako itoh

    great blog!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    貴様 is reserved for people you hate / people you are angry at

  • Kitam

    bancho = HNIC

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    Any difference from 叔父さん/叔母さん compared to 叔父ちゃん/叔母ちゃん? I’ve also heard my friend refer to his aunt as 叔母ちゃん, is that common?

    1。エリンさん
    2。ビエトさん
    3。サンタクラズ様

  • WOTDsctoo

    バンチョーレオモン!!!!

    Rar.

    Ahem…I’ll try not to reference digimon again… >.>

  • buratto

    haha, thats what i prolly tried to say by “bachou.” besides these there are honorifics like dono which arent really used anymore, altho dono is sometimes used in writing.

  • buratto

    yeah, 貴様 something like bastard, a vulgar term, there is no direct translation. When comes to vulgarity also dont forget 手前, teme, which is worse than kisama. Oh, and teme is generally used only by males.

  • buratto

    As usualy, chan is just dearing and only used to someone you know well.

  • buratto

    Oh~! Forgot about this one, there is also ue (上) which is only used in things like 父上様. Sorry for posting here too much

  • Kitam

    i forgive you >.<

  • emiko

    Honorifics can be confusing since America is less strict about how to adress people, it is harder for others to understand. Thank you for explaining ‘han,’ that was getting me a little confused.

    By the way, does anyone ever say ‘kohai’ anymore? I’ve never heard anyone say it before, although I do hear ‘senpai’ very often.

  • ally

    how do you say 貴様? please remember not everyone can read kanji yet.. :)

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    kisama

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    +1

  • Kitam

    haha.. i think i got an A+ on this test

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    -1
    jk

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    Not quite, haha. 小母さん (obaasan) means grandma, haha. I would go with Santa様 or Santaじいちゃん, maybe. You did well on the other two, though.

  • Kitam

    what if santa is a lesbian?..
    then what.

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    (*'A')

  • Kitam

    haha.. hater

  • JohtoKen

    What about buchou?

  • buratto

    Thank you very much, your forgiveness made my day much better ^ ^

  • fredydb327

    The correct answer is… san for all of the above!
    さんさんさん!
    333.
    That’s like in Thai (sa watt dee Thai people). People write 555 for “hahaha”
    jajajajaja. !Spanish speakers will laugh at this! and that. :D
    Why is “w” used for lol? Or did I just make that up?
    Also, why do people say “lol” when they don’t really “laugh out loud”?
    When was the last time you “lol-ed” when writing “lol”?
    Have you ever said “lol” instead emitting actual laughter?
    Haha there’s my test… err… questionnaire.

    While in Japan I heard さん a lot and くん while in school. Never heard ちゃん though. One of the girls in my group tried using it with another host student, and the girl was like “Why ちゃん?” She was confused. I also heard the little shortening of the name with ちゃん. You got them write! I believe you cause I’ve heard them. I never heard the others though.

    Also, Koichi, before writing even more…. Please give me an example of Texan English, cause Texan, which to me is just English, is what I just speak and I do not know what is not part of the standard dialect. I just know that I lost some people using “y’all”.

  • fredydb327

    I apologize for typing away in a stupid-like manner right now. I guess I’m tired. :( I hate writing dumb-sounding comments.

    I also meant “never heard ちゃん much though”.

  • Kitam

    you are forgiven as well..

  • WOTDsctoo

    Yeaaahaaa! I love jajajajajajjaa.
    I used to play world of warcraft, and during one dungeon one of the people only spoke Spanish (or hated us and was making an excuse not to communicate or something XD), and he would say “jajajajjaja”. One guy tried to translate…but needless to say, we failed miserably because of lack of communication. XD

    But that whole 3san thing is pretty nifty. It’s like a pun with numbers or something! Is there a different name for that I wonder…?

  • Kitam

    a different name for using the number 3 instead of san?

  • Uriel

    I actually avoid using honorifics as much as possible because they are just so cheesy. Miiko-chan! No thanks. Except San of course, don’t want to be rude.

    This probably stems from that in Spanish you can add a sort of cute nickname additive as well, -ita/ito. Ex I would, was, Urielito.

  • Kitam

    huh?.. now im confused.. dont use honorifics?

  • Kitam

    oh.. nvm i see what you said.. misread that part
    .. btw.. what happend to my +1 point -_-“

  • http://www.gaiaonline.com/profiles/2668786/ Pachi_PMT

    I know other people have done this already, but I’d thought I’d do it anyways. Makes for good practice. :D

    If you were to email me (or someone else you don’t really know), what honorific would you use?: -San

    If I were to email our author Erin, which one would I use?: -Chan

    If I were to email our other author Viet, which one would I use?: -Kun

    Lastly, here’s a trick question, what about Santa Claus?: -San, I think.

  • Zaywex

    Ha, we should probably call him サンタさま if we want good presents. x)

  • Kitam

    good idea.. i think.. i cant read kanji.. but your confidence has got me sold!

  • mmnessa

    Here are my answers:

    ” If you were to email me (or someone else you don’t really know), what honorific would you use? ”

    I guess officially it would be “Jaered-san” :P

    ” If I were to email our author Erin, which one would I use? “

    I don’t think you have to use honorifics with someone who is really close to you (that would be ridiculous, like having my mom call me “Miss…” everytime she talks to me)

    ” If I were to email our other author Viet, which one would I use? “

    I dunno, I guess “Viet-san”

    ” Lastly, here’s a trick question, what about Santa Claus?”

    Santa-sama. He is, after all, a celebrity

  • mmnessa

    Isn’t it kinda creepy if your teacher calls you “-chan” (when you are a girl)? Or maybe it’s just me

  • mmnessa

    I think it makes more sense with the hyphen. I speak for myself because that’s the only way I’ve seen people write it (I guess you don’t use a hyphen when it’s NOT romanized?)

  • mmnessa

    That reminds me, what about “aniki”? does it mean brother? or is it another honorific used by “gangstahs” (Yes, I’ve been watching doramas again…)

  • buratto

    aniki is informal for older brother. they used among yakuzas too sometimes, albeit no being in a familial relationship.

  • mmnessa

    Oh you have no idea. Even spanish speakers are using “lol” and “OMG” when they chat.
    My favorite is ROFL. It sounds hilarious if you try to say it with a Spanish pronunciation and if you think about it literally, it is less likely that someone will abandon his/her keyboard to “roll on the floor laughing”, unless they suffer of hysteria or a severe case of epilepsy.

  • mmnessa

    Ugh. The ito/ita…I always felt people were looking down on me when the would call me “nessita”.

  • mmnessa

    My friends still make fun of me because of my “jajajaja”, and now I only use “hahaha” or the shorter version “lol” even with Spanish folks :P

  • mmnessa

    OMG! I’ve been using the wrong one! I thought the kansai version was “hon”, and yes I know it means book, but still, a lot of words have a double meaning in Japanese….
    Wow, what was I thinking…

  • diojenisu

    Another one of Kansai, similar to han is yan, but it has a more comic effect. Seen it in comedy a lot.

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    I left a comment on a past article referencing this article. It’s deleted now, but the title basically says it all.

  • http://www.inari-byakko.blogspot.com/ Byakko

    So, odd question here… I’m trying to write a book set in Japan (my own person little invention, not to make money, but just ’cause I like writing), and my main character is interested in dating one of the other characters. He doesn’t seem to be noticing her suble hints though, LOL! Would she be able to use -sama to be coy and cute, while still telling him that she respects his opinion greatly? Or would she simply use -san or -kun, if using anything?

    Just making certain I’m using my knowledge of the culture correctly.

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    Please don’t use -sama, haha.

    Using -kun is probably pretty safe, though.

  • Kitam

    yea… i think sama is a little over the edge for any situation a person may encounter in a lifetime.. i can see it being used for sarcasm, but thats about it

  • Djarno

    Here’s the rule:

    Use -sama only if you want their money and they’re not related to you.

    I guess there is something about hearing sama that makes people think, “Hmm, I feel it prudent to make a transaction with this gentleman.”

  • Lenners

    I would use -san for all (though that might be overly formal?) ^^

  • mmnessa

    Wow, I think that girl didn’t like him very much…

  • mmnessa

    And I guess it can’t be used to refer to an older sister?

  • mmnessa

    But if you know someone really well, you don’t have to use honorifics, right?

  • Zaywex

    You made me snort out loud (sol kind of loses it’s ring though…).

    I had this homestay who said that ‘w’ is short for some type of smiley that has to do with laughing.

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    The letter “w” is short for warau or “laugh”.

  • fredydb327

    makes sense :D

  • furrykef

    No, you should still use honorifics even in that case.

  • Kitam

    you would have to know his personal relation with them to even be able to answer this correctly.. so, as long as you dont use sama for anything other than viet, your possibly safe.

  • Ramaja

    If i were one of those Samurai lover guys (http://www.tofugu.com/2008/02/09/how-to-talk-li…) who use words like “degozaru” or “degozaimasu” in everiday conversations would I rather say “Santa-dono” insted?

  • Jason

    I work as an engineer for a Japanese-based company, and dono and sama are thrown around all the time in email and other written correspondence. In fact, I’m not sure that anyone calls one another san in writing(except when they are writing to me…..). I just call everyone san until I see something else being used to address them by a person in a similar position to me. Oh the confusion…

  • Meg

    I believe that in a JDrama I’ve heard someone referenced as name-tan. Does this exist, or am I just hearing a t when they’re saying an s? The subtitles also had it down as name-tan.

  • Kitam

    some of those alteration could be pronunciation slangs

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    -tan is a version of -chan.

    It’s a little to cutesy for my taste D:

  • buratto

    It does get somewhat confusing. So dono and sama are common in writing then.

  • buratto

    No, aniki is only use to refer to a brother. For sister you can use nee-san, o-nee-san, or simply ane.

  • Kitam

    ouch -2 comment points..
    seeing that i had +2.. im assuming that I messed up somewhere really bad >.<“

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    Is everyone commenting like crazy because they want to be one of the top commenters or something? It’s getting kind of out-of-hand, in my opinion. Let’s strive for quality, people, not quantity, haha.

  • mmnessa

    I’m sorry but if me or the rest are doing anything wrong just because we’re discussing with other people in the comment section I would like to know. I’m certainly not the one who is acting spammish.
    I could care less about the top commenters, I’m here because I like this website and I think comments are just as interesting as the post itself.

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    My comment wasn’t supposed to be a reply to yours, btw.

    I don’t know how it ended up that way D:

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    I’m really glad we have such a cool community of readers/commenters! It’s just that this hasn’t really happened before, haha. I don’t mind so much, as long as everyone stays on topic. Maybe we’ll start a forum after all? I don’t know. It’s something for the Tofugu Team to think about, eh?

  • insomniacgamer

    if you guys can’t figure this stuff out, you might as well just give up on the japanese language altogether >_<

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    Hey now, no reason to be disparaging.

    Everyone has to start somewhere.

  • insomniacgamer

    i think some people just don’t realize they hard work and effort it goes into learning another language…

    also i was just curious… what book is koichi studying out of right now?? i know he recommends the Genki series (which is one of the sources i use also) i wonder how he feels about An Intergrated Intermediate Approach to Japanese ( the book after the Genki 1 & 2 series )

  • Kitam

    yea.. its very hard to pick up. i try diligently everyday because its relevant to my arts!

  • Kitam

    well.. i am sorta the ring leader of the recent out break.. you can tell that based on the fact the ppl felt my offsetting topics to be useless enough to de-rep me 4 times -_-..
    i kinda get the picture, i wasn’t posting for a status relevant post count.. just moreso to be relevant in general, nahmean… im a goofy person, i make goofy posts.
    ive got a load of art to finish tho ^^, so ill reserve my post for topics more relevant to myself. my bad about this, no harsh feelings i hope >.< and thanks

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    To my knowledge he’s not studying anything right now. The last book he used was probably Formal Expressions for Japanese Interaction. I have a copy, if you’ld like to buy it from me, hehe. Oh, I also have an Integrated Intermediate Approach to Japanese. We use both in the Japanese program at our university. Looks like I’ve lent that one out to someone, though. I liked that book; I still have most of the conversations memorized, haha. If you want Koichi’s opinion (I know that mine probably isn’t as credible), though, you should probably email him directly, or use the Tofugu contact form.

    P.S. Just because some people can’t figure out the proper use of honorifics, it doesn’t mean that they’re not trying. Then again, I don’t know many of our commenters personally, so I have no evidence either way.

  • Pingback: Tech Suki » Blog Archive » Difference between San, Sama, Kun, & Chan (jp language)()

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    Oh my, someone gave Kitam -2 pts.!

  • Kitam

    yea, i have a couple of anonymous haters -_-
    oh well

  • insomniacgamer

    well maybe since i have been to japan 4 times it makes it easier for me to understand ^_^. i am going to go for my BA in Japanese Language & Literature starting this fall. they also use the genki books and the intermediate book. i have them all already because i self-study a lot. if he’s not studying, tell him to stop slacking off :P

  • insomniacgamer

    kitam if you are having a lot of trouble remembering things i suggest that you use a program called Anki, i used to have a lot of trouble remembering all the words even if i wrote them out 30 times each… Anki is just a more effective way of studying (and it’s free) here’s the link: http://ichi2.net/anki/ give it a shot for a week and i guarentee you’ll never study without it again ^_^

  • Kurohana

    wait a minute, then why do anime characters (especially cute ones) call all their friends -chan? i usually hear -senpai when talking mostly to senior males in school.

    alot of the time okama’s like to be referred to as [name]-chan and use Atashi for “I”

    i’ve heard girls referred to as -kun too. I barely hear san when speaking amongst school friends.

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    Anime isn’t exactly a good source to reference for proper Japanese language. It has it’s own little language. If you want to sound funny and get weird looks, then by all means learn from it.

    Here is an article that covers using anime as a language tool
    http://www.tofugu.com/2007/06/03/learn-japanese

  • keirakibou

    As for -sama, what about “okusama” and the like?

  • Kitam

    ah man thanks

  • Kitam

    -16 now -_-

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    Probably best to let it go.

    The more you point it out, the more people will notice.

  • Kitam

    just replying to a post i saw in my email… i didnt have any intention to drag it out, i apologize once again

  • nii

    There is one thing that I do not understand in this blog entry. If you typically do not refer to yourself with suffix ‘-san’, why would the Japanese have ‘san’ (or ‘3’ in this case) in their username? That would mean that they are referring to themself as ‘san’, which is something to be avoided.

  • ally

    i was wondering that too!

  • http://izeyhec.blogspot.com/ Izeyhec

    this is very good i think because i refer to most people as san but because like most people who watch anime gah i refer to alot of girls by chan not knowing at all what it ment but now i know

  • karab1n3r_k90

    it is too cr4zi33 f0r m3!!!!!!
    gud thing philippines never had that such thing…

  • SaKuRa

    actually letters and such are mostly always sama, if you don't know the person really and I believe even if you do, just because its writtin down and therefore it sound better formal I believe. At least that was the case for me always, and I wrote enough thank you letters in japan….

  • SA

    Hahaha, I know you'd hate me for saying this, but in a lot of animes, the people with Osaka accents usually add “han” at the end (i.e. Emishi from Get Backers says “Shido-han”.) That did not make any sense to me until now :P

  • Emma

    Its easier just to use san every time LOL , in anime they used honorifics all the time its so confusing

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  • sarahdaniel

    If a maid or a worker was refering to someone they work for, would they use -sama?

  • oriflame

    Fantastic Post!

  • mehera

    Workers commonly use “sama” to refer to customers. For example at a dentist office a receptionist will use sama when calling the next customer.

  • Poppinyouall

    What would you use with friends? Is chan/kun ok, or would that (chan in particular) sound strange? Would you just not add an honorific?

  • Poppinyouall

    What would you use with friends? Is chan/kun ok, or would that (chan in particular) sound strange? Would you just not add an honorific?

  • http://www.japanesemaniac.webs.com/ Stephanie N.

    I watch anime but I got the correct idea. But i might have confused it with my Japanese studies though. :)

  • Poppy

    If you are talking about a celebrity (obviously you have never met them and they are not there with you at the time), would you use -san on the end of their name?

  • sankunchan

    females can be called -kun too, it doesn't mean they're masculine. for example a teacher or an older person in a workplace can call female student/employee who is much younger than them -kun. -kun is used for people that are at the same status or lower, people your age or younger.

  • sankunchan

    if the person is older than you, especially much older, you can call them -kun, which will be very rude if you are not close fiends of them. -kun is supposed to be used only for people your age or younger. calling -chan people you are not close to can also offend them.

    or you can omit honorifics altogether. another option is to call yourself -san.

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    Ugh, sama and chan are the worst.

  • http://hi.baidu.com/yishiym123 DeepBlue

    Ha!
    I think our sensei told us about this once, but I had forgotten. Thanks!

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    Ugh, sama and chan are the worst.

  • http://hi.baidu.com/yishiym123 DeepBlue

    Ha!
    I think our sensei told us about this once, but I had forgotten. Thanks!

  • http://orifworld.com oriflame

    Now I see the difference, about this Japanese call name. :D

  • http://www.moncler-jacket-online.com Baihu5180

    This issue, our teacher asked us again, but unfortunately it did not pay attention.

  • Will

    Your sama def. was terrible. I would also like to know what it’s used for as well as the fact that ‘I’m not likly to use it’ or I’m ‘joking’. What does it mean, that’s what you should have put.

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  • Pingback: Eden.fm » Difference between San, Sama, Kun, & Chan (jp language)()

  • Scapegoatsqueal

    What about ku? Because I’ve heard Sonic called Sonikku and Sonic-san.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    “Sonikku” is just “Sonic” using Japanese kana sounds. as in:

    ソニック
    so-ni-kku

    So, should be “Sonnikku-san” really, a combination of both examples ;)

  • S21magana

    How would you address someone if their last name was Chan? It wouldn’t be Chan-Chan would it? p.s my boyfriends last name is Chan that is why I ask.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    For last names I wouldn’t generally use ~chan anyways, so that solves the
    chanchan problem! :)

  • Mi-chan

    So can you call your friends kun? or is it better to just stick with Chan? ’cause I’ve heard people call their friends (name)-kun

    -Michan

  • Astrapi

    #1:  San
    #2:  Kun
    #3: Kun
    #4:  Chan, because he’s filled lots of children with joy, and I consider him one of my family members.

  • Write2jes

    Thanks,I read Anime and didn’t want to get the wrong idea about the “name endings” so I looked into it right away and this really helped.Though I do like Anime “alot”,also what is “koichi” looking at in that picture? Anyway, : ) ; p ,peace!!! & byyyyyyyyyyyyyye!!!

  • Kisa-chan

    If you were writing your older brother, could you abbreviaye “nii-san” with 4-3? I’ve heard of using the number 3 instead of -san, but would it be completely wrong to use the number 4 for “nii”?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Perhaps you’re thinking of 2 ?

  • Kisa-chan

    Haha, I was thinking about that while I was grabbing a juice box. I was like, “Dang, I put four instaed of two…”

  • M Hatsune13

    what do i use if i want to use Len for the name?san?sama?chan?or kun?

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  • ANIMEMANGAKID ONETWOTHREE

    In gumi’s song the last revolver (saigo no ribobura, 最後のリボブラ[?]) first line she says “santa-san”. is this right???

  • Ness Ciocco

    Koichi-sama…. jk x3 <3

  • DLareg93

    i see .. thanks a lot :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ric.swoap Ric Swoap

    Koichi-san. Thank you for the explanation. I watch anime in Japanese with English subs and was getting confused with all the different honorifics. Wish I was smart enough to learn the whole language but with this knowledge I will be able to keep up at least. I hope.
    I also have my towel and keep it safe.
    Ric

  • http://www.facebook.com/nadia.rousell Nadia Rousell

    So basically,
    Use Sama if you’re insulting/joking about someone–but never on yourself or anyone of higher status.
    Use Chan on preferably younger people or a well known person or anyone of higher status.
    Use Kun USUALLY used on males, females also though, but use on someone of lower status then you –not on anyone higher/older then you.
    Use San used mostly if you don’t know what to say, a safe way out– do NOT use on yourself!!
    And obviously Senpai would be used on a boss or teacher (someone with high status) as would Sensei, not being used on self unless you are ACTUALLY a Senpai/Sensei.
    #hoping that’s right…

  • SSH

    Thanks a lot! Your article saved me from using improper honorifics with an unknown person! :D
    Here are some pictures to soothe your eyes as you’ve soothed/eased my mind! :)

  • xBOEITJOUNIKS

    They indeed give really wrong interpretations sometimes.

  • Yo

    Sama should be used on people you work for or super super high class people like princesses bosses kings leaders

  • TZ rex

    its confusing……. >_<"

  • Domalon

    This is a bloody brilliant app, I’ve started to use it so much especially with learning kanji :P

  • Misa

    im confused>< i just watch Kaichou wa Maid sama. :D but im curious what sama is. also, why is misaki ayuzawa is called as misaki chan or misa chan? and i don't know, once, someone call usui as usui san, but his full name is usui takumi. i forgot what website is that, that i read that i can use (name of guy)-kun, because it is more sweet. and i was like "huh? why?"

  • Mike

    So -san can be used for older ones like you grandpa or someone who’s older than you? And would it be no problem if I use -san for girls and -kun for boys?

  • Megalus Doomslayer

    As someone simply browsing the internet for the difference between san, chan, and kun after having watched an anime series that was honorific intensive, Sword Art Online hit the nail on the head with the honorifics. I believe American writers get it wrong when writing cartoon scripts more often than Japanese cartoons created in Japan get it wrong.

  • Your mom

    Like how you say its confusing but you also posted “if you guys can’t figure this stuff out, you might as well just give up on the japanese language altogether >_<" and act like a know-it-all.

    Did you just forget? LOL

  • Laurie

    Thank you. I watch a lot of Japanese movies, heck I even lived there almost 50 years ago, but I never could figure out how to distinguish which honorific belonged to whom. :)

  • Sakura Miama

    That’s really rude…