Kazoku – The family in Japanese

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Kazoku - The family in JapaneseThis article is about kazoku, the family in Japanese. This time I'm focusing on japanese vocabulary.

Kazoku – The family in Japanese

And since there are special characteristics in the relationship between family members, this is a subject that deserves a little more attention.

The Japanese family and their names

It may seem strange to some people, but I decided to divide the names used to refer to family members into two parts. It's just that in the Japanese language, we usually use two names for each relative. In this case, we will have names for our relatives and other names to talk about the family of others.

How to talk about my family in Japanese

My Japanese family is 私の家族 (watashi no kazoku) and below is a list of words used to refer to each of our relatives.

Hover over the Japanese phrases to see the meaning and how to read the Japanese phrases.

祖父 - My grandfather
祖母 - My grandmother
おば - My Aunt
 - My dad
 - My mom
おじ - My uncle
 - My oldest brother
 - My older sister
 - My husband
 - My younger brother
 - My younger sister
 - My wife
 - My daughter
息子 - My son
 -My nephew
 -My Niece
両親 -My parents
 - My grandson, my granddaughter

When analyzing the list of names above, we find the Japanese hierarchy once again. We have specific words for big brother (), eldest sister (), younger brother () and younger sister (). I can't quite understand why this happens, but the Japanese love to give levels and degrees of importance to everything.

Talking about other people's family

When referring to other people's families, we usually use names that are a little different from the ones presented above. The purpose of these other names is to show more respect and less intimacy with other people's families.

In addition to using these names, it is also common to see the Japanese using the address suffixes, like san after each of them.

To better exemplify the use of words, let's now imagine that we are introducing the family of 山田さん (yamada-san), but they can be used to talk about anyone's family. OK?

おじいさん – His grandmother (Yamada's grandmother)
おばあさん – Your grandmother (Yamada's grandmother)
おばさん – Your aunt (Yamada's aunt)
お父さん – His father (Yamada's father)
お母さん – His mother (Yamada's mother)
おじさん – Your uncle (Yamada's uncle)
お兄さん – His older brother (Yamada's brother)
お姉さん – His older sister (Yamada's sister)
だんなさん – Her husband (O Yamada)
弟さん – His younger brother (Yamada's brother)
妹さん – His younger sister (Yamada's sister)
奥さん – His wife (Yamada's wife)
娘さん – His daughter (Daughter of Yamada)
息子さん – His son (son of Yamada)
甥御さん -Your nephew (Yamada's nephew)
姪御さん -Your niece (Niece of Yamada)
ご両親 -Your parents (Yamada's parents)
お孫さん – Your grandson, your granddaughter (Yamada's grandson/granddaughter)
一人っ子 – Only child

I don't know if I'm wrong, but although some books say that these names are only used for other people's family, I've seen cases where they were used to refer to one's own family. If I remember correctly, in .Hack – The Legend of the Bracelet it was very common for the characters Shugo and Rena to refer using Oniichan and Oneechan to themselves. Even though they are brothers from the same family.

Don't confuse families

Note the sentences below:


As can be well observed, the word 弟 (otouto) is being used in both sentences. If there were no words in parentheses, how would we know the difference between the first and second sentence? Simple, the most formal phrase refers to someone else's brother.

When we are talking about family, it is common to use more formal words for the family of others and less formal words for our family. This is good to know, because the Japanese often omit the possessive terms (watashi no and kare no) during conversations, creating confusion for the unsuspecting or inattentive.

More confusion on the way….

After some studies and a lot of anime, I was sure about my mistrust in the last article. Nowadays, it seems that Japanese people can use more formal words when talking about their own family members. But this usually happens when we refer to relatives older than us.

So it's easier to hear お父さんは警察官だ than hear 父さんは警察官だ, although both forms are valid.

Another interesting case is that the opposite seems to happen for younger relatives. It seems to be more common to use 娘 than 娘さん.

How children talk about family

It is very common to find anime where children use the suffix chan and do not use the prefix o. This happens because children try to express themselves in a closer and more affectionate way. Thinking in this way, some expressions could even change their translation. Please note below:

お母ちゃん、母ちゃん - Mommy
お父ちゃん、父ちゃん - dad
おじいちゃん、じいちゃん - grandfather
おばあちゃん、ばあちゃん - grandfather

And so on…

An interesting tip for the married

These are interesting situations that I haven't been able to fit into any other topic in the articles. So I decided to leave it for last. If you took a good look at the names we listed about the Japanese family, you noticed that some were missing. There seem to be no specific names for father-in-law and mother-in-law in Japanese. In these cases, the only information I have is that the Japanese use their in-laws' first names along with the prefix san.

For wives to talk to husbands, there can be three expressions: 旦那主人 and . Despite the three options, the most used are 旦那 and . All of the above words can be translated as husband or husband.

In the case of husbands, they can also choose one of three options: 家内女房 and . Like 家内 can be translated as home or indoors and 女房 has a more literal translation as room woman, tsuma () seems to be the most suitable word. All of the above words can be translated as wife.

I would like to thank the reader's contribution cyborg who sent me the names for nephew, niece, parents, grandchildren and only child in Japanese. Thank you for participating and contributing to enrich the articles in the Japanese language.

Image credits belong to gwenael.piaser

Kanji calligraphy exercise

Below are the Japanese ideographic symbols used in this article. Selecting the desired kanji, copy and paste them into Worksheet for Kana and Kanji Practice , a new window will open where you can view the printable file and practice Japanese calligraphy by covering the gray symbols and then trying to write yourself. Just print and practice.