自分 - Jibun - Understanding its meaning

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Jibun (自分) is often used in Japanese sentences, but it's hard to explain how to use it. If you pick up a dictionary, you will find the following meanings: I, myself, himself, herself, yourself.

When I came across this word and its meanings I was completely confused. Jibun is a pronoun, noun that gives an idea of oneself or self, but which is also used to give an idea of another person. 

The word 自分 is similar to the English word "self", and is used for self-accent. Most of the time it is used to refer to "self", but it is used to refer to other people.

It can be difficult to translate these words if we don't keep in mind the context of the sentence. There are times when it refers to the person itself but it can also be used to refer to the ego, personality, individuality, character, nature of the person. Jibun can be used to create a self portrait, but be careful not to confuse it with the word Jiko(自己) which also means self. The 2 words are similar but the meaning may vary.

Another word we can confuse is Jishin(自身) which also means own. The difference is that Jishin is used specifically along with another pronoun, while Jibun does not necessarily have to be used together with a pronoun. Jishin can be used together with Jibun for more emphasis.

The Kanji that appears in the 3 words "自" also means own. It is said that 自 was originally nose. Maybe that's why the Japanese point to their nose when referring to themselves. So much so that the "current" kanji for nose has a small 自 at the top.

自分 - jibun - understanding its meaning

It's a lot like the Japanese language being full of similar words, and with many meanings. Unfortunately, we were not born in Japan to understand the feeling and essence of the word. To capture this essence, we must follow several usage examples. Here are some examples of sentences that contain  Jibun (自分). 

Examples

  • 自分について書きたいことがあります
  • I want to write about myself.
  • There are things about me that I want to write about.

If we add the jishin(自身) after the Jibun (自分) we will be emphasizing the person. It would be something like:

  • 自分自身について書きたいことがあります;
  • I want to write about myself;
  • There are things about myself that I want to write about.

  • 自分でも負けた
  • I lost to myself
  • Even though I was defeated. 
  • Even if I lost.
  • I got lost.

What is the best way to translate this sentence? This will depend on the context.


  • 本当に自分勝手だ。
  • Hontōni jibungatteda;
  • It's very selfish.
  • He / She / You

We will identify the pronoun according to the context, the conversation or the person to whom we are speaking.


  • 自分自身を知るべきだ
  • Jibun jishin or shirubekida
  • You must know yourself.

  • 自分の部屋を掃除しなさい。
  • Clean your room by yourself;
  • Clean up your room.

  • 自分の口で言う.
  • Say it with your own mouth;
  • Say it with your own lips.
  • Say it with your own mouth. 

  • その女子は自分に信じました
  • This entry is already in Japanese and can be translated to English as: "This woman committed suicide."
  • The girl had believed in herself. 

  • 自分で解きなさい。
  • Time yourself;
  • Solve it yourself. (by itself.) 

  • 自分の事は自分でしろ
  • jibun no koto wa jibun de shiro -> "自分のことは自分でしろ" -> "Take care of yourself."
  • If you want it well done, do it yourself

I personally could not fully understand the essence of this phrase, however it is a Japanese saying with this meaning. The の particle gives an idea of "himself", "yourself" and "himself". 


Top slide Kitamachi bugyo

I hope these examples helped you understand a little bit about the word “jibun”. Unfortunately only time will help us to grasp the full essence and meaning of this pronoun. If you have a better idea, or some explanation, please comment so that it can help readers.

Credits to my friend Nelson from the site Ganbarouze that helped me write a few things in the article. On his website you will find complete and detailed content for learning Japanese.

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