Japanese Titles

Honorifics, or titles, are a very important part of the Japanese language. People in Japan are almost never referred to without a honorific after their name. In this lesson we'll go through various important honorifics and talk about how each one is used.


San is the most used honorific, which can mean Mr., Mrs. Ms., or Miss, an is placed after a person's last name, like "Sumisu-san". A very forman version of san is sama, which is used for people much higher in rank, and conveys a very high amount of respect.

In addition, san is used in job titles. For example, adding -san to "honya" ("bookstore") makes the word "honya-san", which means "bookseller". Another example is "kameraya-san", which means "camera store clerk".


Another honorific is kun, which is commonly added to the names of male collegues and, by people of higher status, students. It can also be used by anyone to reffer to male children, teenagers, relatives, or friends.


Chan is a honorific that is most prominently used with babies and children under the age of ten, which is reflected upon fact that the word for baby in Japanese is "akachan". Chan is also often used for teenage girls. Children growing up together may use -chan even into adulthood. Chan also tends to be used for cute animals and pets.

Often, Japanese parents will keep on using -kun for sons, and -chan for daughters, regardless of age.


Sensei is a Japanese word that means teacher, and can be used as a suffix for teachers, doctors, and even politicians. For example, "Tanaka-sensei" could mean "Mr. Tanaka" as a teacher, "Dr. Tanaka", or "Mr. Tanaka" as a politician.


And lastly, senpai is a honorific that is used for one's senior in a school, company, or other group. For example, if someone is in a higher school grade than you, or if he has more experience in a job than you, he is your senpai. Note that this is not used for one's boss.

Both sensei and senpai can be used as stand-alone titles.

Japanese names

Here are three useful and important points points about names in Japan:

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