Japanese use different words for members of their own family and for members of someone else's family.

There are several different levels indicating politeness or  closeness. For example when talking to or about your own older sister within the family you may use 'oneechan' or even the shorter 'neechan'. And when talking about the same sister with a neighbor lady, you would use 'ane'. And you wouldn't use 'ani' and 'ane'
for your own siblings when talking within the family.

Here's an example:

  • Maki: oneesan wa manga ga suki desu yo ne?
  • Taro: ane wa kirai desu kedo, ani wa daisuki desu yo.

  • Maki: Your sister loves manga doesn't she?
  • Taro: She hates manga, but my brother loves it.

Table of Words for Family Members  

Relation My family
Your Family
grandmother sobo 祖母 obaasan お婆さん
grandfather sofu 祖父 ojiisan お爺さん
mother haha okaasan お母さん
father chichi otousan お父さん
wife kanai,
okusan 奥さん
husband shujin,
goshujin 御主人
daughter musume musumesan 娘さん
son musuko 息子 musukosan 息子さん
older sister ane oneesan お姉さん
younger sister imouto imoutosan 妹さん
older brother ani oniisan お兄さん
younger brother otouto otoutosan 弟さん
aunt oba 叔母 obasan 叔母さん
uncle oji 叔父 ojisan 叔父さん
niece mei meigosan 姪ごさん
nephew oi oigosan 甥ごさん
cousin itoko 従兄 itoko 従兄 
child kodomo 子供 kodomosan 子供さん
grandchild mago omagosan お孫さん
family kazoku 家族 gokazoku ご家族
sibling kyoudai 兄弟 gokyoudai ご兄弟

Casual Words

In the family there may be other, more casual ways to call family members. Here are some examples:

  • Mother: kaasan, okan
  • Father: tousan, oton
  • Older sister: neechan, oneechan
  • Older brother: niichan, oniichan
  • Grandfather: jiji
  • Grandmother: baaba 

Also (young) men may call their wife (うちの) 奥さん "uchi no okusan" when talking with his friends.

Relation by Marriage

The adjective giri no means related by marriage:

giri no musuko  


The 御 and お are used when you are speaking of someone elses family
in order to show respect and honor, but are not used when speaking of
your own family because this seems boastful and can be rude.



This page is a part of "Some Notes on Japanese Grammar"published for your personal use, with the kind permission of Keith Smillie (http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~smillie/)