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TYJ Kinship

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This article is in the series Teach Yourself Japanese
8.4. Kinship

8.4.1. Kinship reference terms

Japanese kinship terms have two categories: reference terms and address terms. The latter is used to call your family without using their name, like the English words dad and mom. Kinship reference terms are never used to call them directly.



Kana:おや
Romanization:o ya
Meaning:parent


Note: Another word ふぼ "hubo", which means father and mother, is also commonly used in formal situations.



Kana:ちち
Romanization:ti ti
Meaning:father


Note: The word ちちおや "titioya" is also commonly used.



Kana:はは
Romanization:ha ha
Meaning:mother


Note: The word ははおや "hahaoya" is also commonly used.



Kana:あに
Romanization:a ni
Meaning:elder brother


Note: Japanese distinguishes elder brothers and younger brothers. The word きょうだい "kyôdai" means brothers and sisters and it is sometimes useful, but using it for a specific brother/sister is as strange as using the English word sibling for him/her. It depends on language what information you have to give when you talk about a sibling. You have to clarify his/her sex and age compared to you in Japanese, while in English you don't have to tell his/her age. You might be interested to know that in Indonesian you have to clarify only his/her age because it has a word for elder sibling and another word for a younger sibling.



Kana:あね
Romanization:a ne
Meaning:elder sister




Kana:おとうと
Romanization:o tô to
Meaning:younger brother




Kana:いもうと
Romanization:o mô to
Meaning:younger sister




Kana:そふ
Romanization:so hu
Meaning:grandfather




Kana:そぼ
Romanization:so bo
Meaning:grandmother




Kana:そぼ
Romanization:so bo
Meaning:grandmother


Note: The word そふぼ "sohubo" means grandfather and grandmother.




Kana:
Accent:L
Romanization:ko
Meaning:child


Note: Another word こども "kodomo" is also commonly used for a child, but it often means all minors, not only your sons and daughters.



Kana:むすこ
Romanization:mu su ko
Meaning:son




Kana:むすめ
Romanization:mu su me
Meaning:daughter




Kana:まご
Romanization:ma go
Meaning:grandchild


Note: If you want to distinguish grandsons and granddaughters, you can use まごむすこ "magomusuko" (grandson) and まごむすめ "magomusume" (granddaughter), but simply saying まご is more common.



Kana:おじ
Romanization:o zi
Meaning:uncle




Kana:おば
Romanization:o ba
Meaning:aunt




Kana:いとこ
Romanization:i to ko
Meaning:cousin




Kana:おい
Romanization:i to ko
Meaning:nephew




Kana:めい
Romanization:me i
Meaning:niece


8.4.2. Kinship address terms

The following words are used to call elder members of your family, like dad and mom. It is also good to use them to refer to other people's families, but using them to talk about your own family in formal situations sounds childish. Use given names to call younger members of your family.



Kana:おとうさん
Romanization:o sa n
Meaning:dad


Note: The first お "o" is a common politeness prefix for nouns, and removing it sounds you are matured. The last さん "san" is the same as the Japanese equivalent of Mr. and Ms., but it's a part of the word, and you can't remove it.



Kana:おかあさん
Romanization:o sa n
Meaning:mom




Kana:おにいさん
Romanization:o sa n
Meaning:elder brother (address term)


Note: Children prefer the word おにいちゃん "otyan". The last ちゃん "tyan" is a childlike version of さん.



Kana:おねえさん
Romanization:o sa n
Meaning:elder sister (address term)


Note: Children prefer the word おねえさん "otyan".



Kana:おじいちゃん
Romanization:o tya n
Meaning:grandpa


Note: The word おじいさん "osan" is often used for old men in general, not necessarily your grandfather.



Kana:おばあちゃん
Romanization:o tya n
Meaning:grandma


Note: The word おばあさん "osan" is often used for old women in general, not necessarily your grandmother.



Kana:おじさん
Romanization:o zi sa n
Meaning:uncle (address term)


Note: This word is also used for general middle-age men.



Kana:おばさん
Romanization:o ba sa n
Meaning:aunt (address term)


Note: This word is also used for general middle-age women.

The interesting point of the kinship address terms is that the viewpoint is usually fixed on the youngest member of the family. For example, it is not uncommon at all for a man with a child to call his wife おかあさん "okâsan" and for his wife to call her husband おとうさん "otôsan" because their word usage is based on their child's viewpoint. If they live with his or her parents, they would call their father おじいちゃん "ozîtyan" and their mother おばあちゃん "obâtyan".

Further readings:

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Takasugi
My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

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