Watashi, boku, ore – How to say “I” in Japanese?

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Do you already know Japanese pronouns? Do you know how to say "I" in Japanese? Perhaps you have seen the words “watashi, boku, ore”? Which ones to use? In this article, we're going to look at thousands of different ways to refer to yourself (say me) in Japanese.

In the Japanese language there are several ways to say eu, and these forms are also used to refer to “me”, “we”, and “the person”, different from Portuguese we have our own words for it. Not to mention keigo, formality in the Japanese language.

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Watashi e Watakushi [私]

The most common and formal way of saying I in Japanese is watashi [私]. Many women also use it in informal speeches, which may sound feminine, but the word can be used by both sexes in formal conversations.

It may eventually be written in hiragana [わたし] to give a softer tone. The character [私] also reads watakushi, another way of referring to “I”, but in a much more formal way to be used with bosses or important people.

Women can say “atashi” [あたし] a more delicate and feminine formal used mainly by girls between 20 and 40 years old. Other ways to say Atashi are:

  • Atai [あたい]
  • Ashi [あし]
  • Asshi [アッシ]
  • Atai [あたい]
  • Ataki [あたき]
  • Ate [あて]
  • Atakushi [あたくし]

Here are the ways to say I, derived from the ideogram [私]:

  • Watakushi [わたくし] – very formal;
  • Atashi [あたし] – female informal;
  • Washi [わし] – very informal worn by old men;
  • Wate [わて] – Popular in Kansai dialect;
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Boku [ぼく] and Ore [俺]- Masculine pronouns

Young people and male children often use “boku” [僕]. This word presents a sense of casual consideration, being quite humble, as its character also means servant (shimobe). That's why children often use it.

If you are already an adult, avoid using it, it may sound a little childish or delicate.

The word “boku” [僕] is also used to refer to you. This happens when the person referred to has used the term to refer to himself, or to refer to someone who is likely to use this pronoun, such as a young boy, being equivalent to Boy.

Another popular first person pronoun is ore [俺] which sounds quite informal and rude. Commonly used among friends by men and boys. When used too much, it can sound authoritative, like you're bossing someone around.

Anime names those who use the first person pronoun are delinquents, evil people, yakuza and others who pass an air of bigwig. The pronoun “ORE” establishes a sense of masculinity.

Used primarily with peers or with younger or lower social status, indicating the speaker's own status. Among close friends or family, its use is seen as a sign of familiarity rather than masculinity or superiority.

Some derived and similar words to Boku and Ore are:

  • Oira [おいら] – Similar to [俺], but more casual. It can give the sense of a redneck;
  • Ora [おら] – Dialect in Kanto and further north. It gives the sense of a redneck;

Bokukko – Women who wear Boku

Although the word “boku” [僕] is preferred by men, some rare girls are called “bokukko” [僕っこ] because they use the first person pronoun “boku”. Usually a girl disintegrated from society, from the country or quite manly.

Even with Japanese speech patterns becoming more gender-neutral over the years, this would be considered unusual in real life; however, it is a common character quirk in Japanese anime and video games.

This speech pattern can also be used to keep a character's gender obscured – is she a girl for a boy or a boy for a girl? The same can happen with another masculine pronoun “ORE” [俺], where they are called “orekko” [俺っこ].

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Other ways to say I

There are other ways to say I in Japanese, although some are very uncommon or are no longer used.

  • Waga [我が]It means "mine" or "ours". Used in speeches and formalities;
  • Ware [我] – Alternative to Waga.
  • Uchi [家] – It means I, or the person himself. Commonly used in the dialects of some regions of Japan;
  • Warawá [] – Used by princesses, ancient form of Watakushi;
  • Gusou [ぐそう] Used by Buddhist Fathers;
  • Jibun [自分] – Means yourself, yourself or own person.

In Japan it is also common to use one's name to refer to oneself. It is mostly used by young children and young women, it can be considered something cute, but sometimes annoying, full of self.

Each region of Japan may have a different way of saying “I” in Japanese. This happens due to the dialects and the multiple readings that are allowed in a single ideogram. The image below has more ways to say I in Japanese:

Ways to say me

Archaic Ways of Saying I in Japanese

Below we will share a list of archaic first person Japanese pronouns. Most archaic pronouns are masculine, only those derived from watakushi and waga are commonly used by both sexes.

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adakado仇家人Used as a humble term, literally for a person's home.
asshiあっしFrom the Feudal era.
chineseUsed only by the Emperor, mainly before the Second World War.
onoreIt means "self".
sessha拙者Used by ninjas and samurai during the feudal era.
sogashiAncient form of "watakushi".
waga-hai我が輩,吾輩Literally “my group”, but used in a pompous way like me, mine; 
warawaAncient form of "watakushi".
yo余, 予Archaic first-person singular pronoun.

Transforming pronouns into the plural

First person pronouns can be made plural with the addition of a suffix. This way you will be able to say “we” with the words you learned in this article. The plural of pronouns in Japanese is called fukusuukei [複数形].

Tachi [達] – One of the suffixes used to make a pronoun plural. It can be written in hiragana, it can also be added to names to indicate a person's group of friends. Examples: [俺たち, 僕たち, 私たち].

Domo [共] – It denotes some sprinkling in the mentioned group, so it can be rude. The word is quite humble and can be used, for example, in “watakushi”. Example: [私ども].

Ra [等] – Used mostly with informal pronouns. Its use and mode is more didactic. Examples: [お前ら, 俺ら, あいつら].

Gata [方] – Usually used in second and third personal pronouns, it is more formal than [-たち] and [-ら]. Examples: [あなた方].

We also have the word “wagasha” [我が社] and “hei-sha” [弊社] which means we. These words are formal and humble, they are used when representing the person's own company. Being “hei-sha” more humble than “wagasha”.

Also read our basic article talking about other pronouns by clicking here. I hope you enjoyed this article, if you liked it share and leave your comments. Did you expect the existence of so many first person pronouns?

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