[Japanese Language] Honorific titles- Kun/Chan/ San(くん/ちゃん/さん)

When we call someone, we attach an honorific title to his/her name.
Japanese speakers use it in various ways with considering gender and age.

One’s name + Kun
One’s name + Chan
One’s name + San
One’s name (+ no title)
They give us different impressions.

[General]
“Kun”
– for men (same age or younger)
– friendly
– attached to first name and family name

“Chan”
– for women (same age or younger)
– friendly
– attached to first name

“San”
– for everyone
– formal
– attached to first name and family name
– a little courtesy and politeness
– most commonly used (*Japanese respects good manners)

no honorific titles(name only)
– for everyone (same age or younger)
– not so polite
– sometimes very close friendship

I’ll take CLANNAD for example.

[exception]
“Kun” is sometimes used for women by middle aged man.


Neon Genesis Evangelion

“Chan” is sometimes used for all little child(both boy and girl)for endearment.

[Parents]
Father is called as otousan (お父さん).
This word is composed by three parts, o-tou-san.
“tou” means father.
“o” is a polite prefix to attach every words.
Ex) Rice is kome(米). Its polite form is okome(お米).
And “san” is an honorific title as we explained above.
We can call him otou-chan or tou-chan if he is not too strict.
Mother is okaasan. Call her okaa-chan as you like.

[Brothers and Sisters]
From older sibling to younger one
– no honorific titles(name only)
– sometimes with Kun/Chan as they like.

From younger sibling to older brother
-oniichan (お兄ちゃん)
-not call his name

From younger sibling to older sister
-oneechan (お姉ちゃん)
-not call her name

[School]
“Sensei” (先生)
Teacher is called his/her name with Sensei for both men and women. Not with “San”.
Ex) Yamada Sensei. (Family name + Sensei)

Senpai (先輩)
Un upper-class student is “Senpai” for both boys and girls, sometimes in business also.
Ex) Yamada Senpai. (Family name or first name + Senpai)

“Kouhai” (後輩)
A lower-class student is “Kouhai”.
But we don’t call younger one with Kouhai.
Ex) “Yamada Kouhai” is not correct.

I think that people call each other with his/her first name in many parts of the world.
When you came to Japan, you should call someone with “San”
But don’t pay much attention to it.
You are welcome !

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