Japanese Honorifics - The Meaning of san, kun, chan and others


Do you know the meaning of san, chan, kun at the end of the names in the Japanese language? In this article, we will talk about Japanese honorary titles.

The Japanese language uses a wide variety of honorific suffixes to refer to people with more respect. These honorary titles are gender neutral and can be attached to first names as well as surnames and even objects.

The honorary title is generally used to refer to the person you are talking to, or when referring to a third party. It is never used to refer to itself, except for dramatic effect, or in some exceptional cases. Most honorifics can be written in hiragana, but we will only put romanization and kanji in the article.

It is very important to learn all honorary titles and suffixes, because they are always used in the Japanese language, especially the suffixes that are used after the person's name. We will see most of them in this article:

Honoríficos japoneses - o significado de san, chan e outros

What does San mean in Japanese?

San (さん) is derived from sama, is the most common honorary title, and is a title of respect normally used among equals of any age. Although the closest analog in Portuguese is the honorary titles "Sr.", "Senhorita" or "madam". San it is almost universally added to a person's name, in both formal and informal contexts.

The importance of -san it’s very big, what I’m going to say now is a personal opinion, but let’s say I’m talking to someone called Ichigo, which also means strawberry, if I stop using the honorary suffixes someone may end up confusing the person’s name with the Strawberry.

  • In addition to people's names, the suffix san is also used in a variety of other ways;
  • Sometimes it is pronounced han (はん) in the kansai dialect;
  • Some online MMORPG players usually put the 3 (san) after the name to refer to the suffix san;

San it is also used in combination with nouns in the workplace, so that a bookseller can be approached or referred to as honya-san (“Bookshop” + san ), and a butcher as nikuya-san (“Butcher shop” + san ).

San it is sometimes used with company names. For example, the offices or store of a company called Kojima Denki can be referred to as "Kojima Denki-san" by another company nearby. This can be seen on small maps often used in phone books and business cards in Japan.

San it can also be attached to the names of animals or even inanimate objects. For example, a pet rabbit can be called Usagi-san. (It can be considered childish, it is as if you are saying: Mr rabbit.)

Honoríficos japoneses - o significado de san, chan e outros

What does chan kun and tan mean in Japanese?

Chan (ちゃん) it is a diminutive suffix that expresses formality, trust, affinity or security with the other person. But using the chan with senior or older people is ugly and rude. Generally, chan it is used for babies, children, grandparents and teenagers.

Chan is used most of the time to refer to young women, men rarely use -chan, they usually use -kun. Chan can also be used on cute animals, lovers and close friends.

To accentuate informality, you can assign the suffix to the other person's initial. For example, a woman named Momoko may be called Mo-chan by someone close to her.

Kun (君) - This is a low education particle, also your kanji is the same as "kimi" which means "you / you". The suffix -kun is used among friends, a colleague, a younger brother or boy. It is widely used in the “superior speaking to an inferior” relationship to refer to the inferior.

Tan (たん) - It means the same thing as chanexcept that it is often used by children when they mispronounce the word. It can be used to make things look more beautiful when added to a name.

Honoríficos japoneses - o significado de san, chan e outros

What does dono and sama mean in Japanese?

It is a significantly more respectful and formal version of san. It is mainly used to refer to people much higher in the hierarchy, and sometimes to a person you idolize or admire a lot. When used to refer to yourself, sama expresses extreme arrogance (or irony).


Examples: The suffix sama is often used to address Kings, Princesses, Gods, Chiefs, and customers in a store.

Tama / FlameTama and Flame are the children's versions of sama, when children end up missing the word and it became popular and kawaii.

Owner (殿) - This suffix is very rare nowadays and is used to demonstrate a very high degree of respect (even more than "-sama"). It was used to speak of samurai warriors, at the time of Edo. Since then "-owner" has only been used to speak of warriors, but it is perfectly possible to use it on ordinary people, if they are very important.

Honoríficos japoneses - o significado de san, chan e outros

What does sensei, senpai and kohai mean in Japanese?

Senpai (先輩) is used to treat or refer to an older classmate in a school, company, sports club or other group. So, at school, students of higher grades than yours are considered senpai. Students of the same or lesser degree cannot be senpai, nor can teachers. In a business environment, more experienced colleagues are senpai, but a boss is not. Senpai can be used by itself, or as with a suffix.

Kōhai (後輩) - Refers to a junior, or the reverse of senpai, but is not normally used as an honorary title. Sometimes kouhai-kun can even be used to refer to a kouhai.


Sensei (先生) - It is commonly translated as "teacher". However, this is not the genuine meaning of this suffix. Sensei is used to speak of people “who were born before” (of us) and who, for this reason, have more knowledge and experience in a certain area. For example, "-sensei" is used to speak of masters in Fine Arts, Martial Arts or Literature. It is also normal to call a doctor a sensei, for example: "Mizaki-sensei", that is Dr. Mizaki.

Shi (氏) - Shi is used in formal writing, to refer to a person who is not familiar with the speaker, usually a person known through publications that the speaker has never really met. For example, the shi it is common in the speech of the speakers, in legal documents, academic publications, and some other formal styles of writing and speaking. Since a person's name has been used with shi, the person can be referred to shi alone, without a name, as long as there is only one person to be referred to.

Honoríficos japoneses - o significado de san, chan e outros

Other Japanese Honors

Senshu (選手) - This suffix means "sportsman" or "one who practices sport". Used to talk about people who play sports like football, baseball and even Formula 1 racing.

Zeki (関) - Also used for sportsmen but only for Sumo wrestlers, especially those of high rank.

Eu (上) - Much used in the past, among aristocratic families, to refer to someone you feel a lot of respect for, such as father, mother and other members of the family itself. Examples: chichi-ue (father), haha-ue (mother), ani-ue (older brother), ane-ue (older sister).

Iemoto (家元) - It is a more formal version of “sensei”, used by great traditional art masters, such as Japanese calligraphy or tea ceremony.

Hikoku (被告) - It serves to refer to convicted criminals. Suspects who are still awaiting trial are referred to as "yogisha".

Hime (姫) - Even though it is usually translated as “princess”, the suffix -hime can refer to a lady of noble origin.

Heika (陛下) - This is a real title, which translates as “majesty”. For example, Tennō heika (天皇陛下), which means “His Majesty, the Emperor” and Joo heika (女王陛下) which means “His Majesty, the Queen”. Another similar title is Denka (殿下), which translates as "Royal Highness".

Kappa (閣下) - Kappa is an honorary title which means “Your Excellency” and is generally used for ambassadors and some heads of state.


Bochan (坊ちゃん) - Used for wealthy children, usually by butlers.

Denka (殿下) - Denka is used for non-sovereign royalty, similar to the "Royal Highness". Denka can be used by itself, as "Your Royal Highness".

Hidenka (妃殿下) - Hidenka is to address the prince's consort, and is used in the same way as the other royal titles.

Honoríficos japoneses - o significado de san, chan e outros

Japanese honors Daitouryou [大統領]

Daitouryou means "president" and is used for any national president. It is most commonly attached to a name, such as the 44th President of the United States, Obama-Daitōryō (オバマ大統領).

  • Hoshi (法師) Buddhist monk;
  • Shinpu (神父) Catholic priest;
  • Bokushi 牧師) Protestant priest;
  • Senshi (戦士) Used for Warriors;

Japanese honorifics Shogo [称号]

They are titles created by Dai Nippon Butoku Kai together with the International Federation of Martial Arts in Europe. To refer to people at a certain level of martial arts.

  • Renshi (錬士): Instructor. (Specialist or specialist teacher) Awarded from 4th Dan above;
  • Kyoshi (教士) Refers to an advanced teacher. (Senior Professor / Expert). Awarded from Dan 6 above;
  • Hanshi (範士) Refers to a senior specialist considered to be a “teacher of teachers”;
  • Meijin (名人): Granted by a special board of examiners;
  • Oyakata (親方) Master, especially a sumo trainer. Also used by yakuza and has been used by samurai to daimyō;
  • Shihan (師範) It means chief instructor;
  • Shidoin (指導員) Intermediate instructor;
  • Shisho (師匠) Another title used for martial arts instructors;
  • Zeki (関) Literally “barrier”, used for sumo wrestlers in the first two divisions (sekitori);