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Basic Japanese : Casual Japanese honorific titles

Date Published: Last Update:2015/03/09 Others , , , , ,

The following titles are commonly used casual Japanese honorific titles and very rarely used titles.
Never ever use any of these to higher ranking people or your customers unless you are very close to the person.
If you are not so sure which title to use to somebody, the person’s family name with “san” is probably the best choice to an adult or a girl.

To a little child, the child’s first name with “chan” (or “kun” to a little boy) is the most common, I guess.

Casual Japanese honorific titles in speech



  • Generally used to a male. Some men use this to a female as well.
  • At office, some may call the same (or lower) ranking men with this title.
    At school, usually boys are called with “kun”, girls with “san”.



  • Chiefly used to a small child.
  • This may be used to an adult (usually female) who the speaker has a close feeling.
  • In a Japanese police drama “Aibou” (lit. “Partners”), a female character “Hinako”, who is a member of the House of Representatives, is always called as “Hina chan” by her late father’s fellow politician.
    Of course she wasn’t happy about it, and later she demanded him to stop calling her like that.
  • In a Japanese manga “Tsuri-baka nisshi” (lit. “Diary of fishing freak(s)”), a protagonist Densuke Hamasaki is called as “Hama chan”.
  • The family name of Tomas Hubocan, a Slovakian footballer, is pronunced as “Fubo chan” in Japanese.
    I guess many Japanese (including me) can’t help having a kind of familiar feeling to him just because of his family name.
    In fact, a Japanese commentary once said so on TV when he heard the player’s name.

“Yobi-sute” (calling somebody without “san” or anything after the name)

  • In Japan, it is quite probable to be considered rather rude or arrogant to call somebody’s name only unless you are very close to the person (like family).
  • Having said that, some Japanese call non-Japanese with the first name without “san” or equivalent even at work.
    This is perhaps because they believe that it is more usual for non-Japanese to be called like that.
    Personally, I feel rather awkward to hear a Japanese calling a foreigner without “san” in Japanese at office because it’s not very polite.
    My Japanese friend in England once told me that Japanese students, who stayed at her house, kept calling her English husband only by name in Japanese, and she wasn’t very pleased.
  • At school, probably many boys call the other boys just by name when they are classmates or underclass students.


“Otaku-ish” (nerdy) Japanese honorific titles in speech

Quite rarely used in front of other people.
I’ve never heard of anybody using any of these except in fictions. Better avoid using in public if you are an adult.



  • It’s a lispy version of “chan”.
    So, small children might say this instead of “chan”.
  • Some male “otaku” use this for their favourite female characters or “idol”.
    (“Idol” in Japan is a (young) good-looking star / starlet (usually without a proper talent as a musician or an actor / actress).)
  • Personally, this has more “moe” impression.
    “Moe” is a (“otaku”) slang to express strong one-way affection, passion or desire to somebody / something.
    For instance, “neko tan” (“neko” means “cat” in Japanese) would give stronger excited feeling of the user than “neko chan”.

    Neko tan

    - Neko tan!! -
    Photo from Pakutaso



  • A short version of “chan” (in Japanese, “chan” has three characters and “chin” has two), but not general.
  • I feel this is less used than “tan”, although I actually used this when I called my LOVELY dog (not in public, of course).
  • In a Japanese manga entitled “Seishun shonbori kurabu” (lit. “Adolescent crestfallen club”), there is a boy who uses this to girls with their first names.
    He is accepted probably because he is a kind of joker and (most importantly) good-looking.
    (And it’s a fiction anyway.)

    Seishun shonbori kurabu

    - "Seishun shonbori kurabu" -
    The character on the left is the boy who uses "chin".

Next : Japanese honorific titles in text


Related posts: #“I” in Japanese (1) (2) (3)

#Japanese honorific titles (1:Formal) (3:In text) (4:Business titles)

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A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

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