Honorifics and Titles

Various companies that translate manga into English include a boilerplate text on honorifics and titles appearing within a specific volume. Here is a compilation of these texts from various companies.

no honorific

Del-Ray: Usually forgotten in these lists, but perhaps the most significant difference between Japanese and English. The lack of honorific means that the speaker has permission to address the person in a very intimate way. Usually, only family, spouses, or very close friends have this kind of permission. Known as youbisute, it can be gratifying when someone who has earned the intimacy starts to call one by one’s name without an honorific. But when that intimacy hasn’t been earned, it can be very insulting.

Yen Press: Indicates familiarity or closeness; if used without permission or reason, addressing someone in this manner would constitute an insult.

-さん

Del-Ray: This is the most common honorific, and is equivalent to Mr., Miss, Ms., Mrs. etc. It is the all-purpose honorific and can be used in any situation where politeness is required.

Yen Press: The Japanese equivalent of Mr./Mrs./Miss. If a situation calls for politeness, this is the fail-safe honorific.

-さま

Del-Ray: This is one level higher than “-san” and is used to confirm great respect.

Yen Press: Conveys great respect; may also indicate that the social status o the speaker is lower than that of the addressee.

-どの

Del-Ray: This comes from the word “tono,” which means “lord.” It is an even higher level than “-sama,” and confers utmost respect.

-くん

Del-Ray: This suffix is used at the end of boys’ names to express familiarity or endearment. It is also sometimes used by men among friends, or when addressing someone younger or of a lower station.

Yen Press: Used most often when referring to boys, this indicates affection or familiarity. Occasionally used by older men among their peers, but it may also be used by anyone referring to a person of lower standing.

-ちゃん

Del-Ray: This is used to expression endearment, mostly toward girls. It is also used for little boys, pets, and even among lovers. It gives a sense of childish cuteness.

Yen Press: An affectionate honorific indicating familiarity used mostly in reference to girls; also used in reference to cute persons or animals of either gender.

ぼうず

Del-Ray: This is an informal way to refer to a boy, similar to the English term “kid” or “squirt.”

せんぱい

Del-Ray: This title suggests that the addressee is one’s “senior” in a group or organization. it is most often used in a school setting, where underclassmen refer to their upperclassmen as “sempai.” It can also be used in the workplace, such as when a newer employee addresses an employee who has seniority in the company.

Yen Press: A suffix used to address upperclassmen or more experienced coworkers.

こうはい

Del-Ray: This is the opposite of “sempai,” and is used toward underclassmen in school or newcomers in the workplace. It connotes that the address is of lower station.

せんせい

Del-Ray: Literally meaning “one who has come before,” this title is used for teachers, doctors, or masters of any profession or art.

Yen Press: A respectful term for teachers, artists, or high-level professionals.

ねえちゃん/にいちゃん

Del-Ray: Older siblings are not commonly called by name, but rather by the title “older sister” (nee-chan) or “older brother” (nii-chan). These honorifics can also be used with someone unrelated, when the relationship seems like a sibling relationship.

ねえ

Yen Press: Honorific derived from onee-san/sama (“big sister”). -nee when used alone after a name can mean closeness.

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