第136課: Family

     Family terms are different for one’s family and someone’s family. One’s family is 家族かぞく. Another person’s is ご家族. ご is an honorific prefix that attaches to most Sino-Japanese words. 

      The traditional Japanese house structure, いえ, is very different from a nuclear family.  The  is responsible for making contracts with Buddhist temples and is comprised of generations of married couples and unmarried children. Ancestors are thought to watch over their descendants. 

      The wife joins her husband’s 家 and has no ritual obligations for her nuclear family. In real life one’s nuclear family is still important, but death and lineage is dominated by one’s . Only one child is a successor, and it’s usually the oldest male child. Females are rarely chosen because they would be obligated for both families’ rituals. Upon death, individuals who don’t receive ritual care become 無縁仏むえんぼとけ. These people include singles, childless couples, etc. Family altar is 仏壇ぶつだん and family grave is はか. Ashes of past generations are kept there. 

       Nowadays, some are veering from this. Some have their ashes scattered and others have a grave plot, but these are hard to get.  


     There are many important people in your family tree 家系図かけいず. Not all family terms have separate terms for one’s family and someone else’s family. When there is a term that has both an 音読み and a 訓読み, the first is usually for referring to them or in written terms. 

 Great-grandparents 曾祖父母 そうそふぼ
 Great-grandfather 曽祖父 そうそふ・ひ(い)じじ・ひおおじ
 Great-grandmother 曾祖母 そうそぼ・ひ(い)ばば・ひおおば
 Great-grandchild(ren) 曾孫 そうそん・ひ(い)まご・ひこ (Rare)
 Grandparents 祖父母 そふぼ
 Grandfather 祖父 そふ・おじ (Rare)・じじ(Dialect)・じい (~Old man)・おおじ (Rare)
 Grandmother 祖母 そぼ・ばば (Dialect/rude)・おおば (Rare)
 Grandchild(ren) 孫 まご
 Granduncle 大叔・伯父 おおおじ
 Grandaunt 大叔・伯母 おおおば
 Parents 両親 りょうしん
 Father 父(親) ちち(おや)
 Mother 母(親) はは(おや)
 Dad パパ、おやじ パパ、おやじ
 Mom ママ、お袋 ママ、おふくろ
 Uncle 叔・伯父 おじ
 Aunt 叔・伯母 おば
 Husband 夫、旦那 おっと、だんな
 Wife 妻、女房、家内 つま、にょうぼう、かない
 Son 息子 むすこ
 Daughter 娘 むすめ
 Older Brother 兄(貴) あに(き)
 Younger Brother 弟 おとうと
 Older Sister 姉(貴) あね(き)
 Younger Sister 妹 いもうと

Word Notes:

1. 家内 is felt to be condescending because it suggests that women should be in the house.

2. For writing aunt and uncle, 叔 is used when they’re younger and 伯 is used when they’re older than your parents.

3. 母親 and 父親 shouldn’t be used to address one’s parents.  and  are similarly used.  and  may refer to the mother or father of anything also. 

4. ~ attached to  and  adds respect.

5. As you will learn, you will often or usually call family members with the titles originally for someone else’s family. Some here include one’s mother, father, grandfather, and grandmother. 兄 is often like this and 姉 is even more so replaced by the term originally reserved for someone else’s older sister.  


1. 私兄弟きょうだいが3います。
    I have three siblings.

2. 母なる大地 (Set Phrase)

     Mother Earth

3. 姉に似ている。
    My older sister resembles my mom. 


     The main difference between the words for one’s family with that of another is that someone’s family is addressed with more honorific terms. The list below illustrates these terms with the same rules of age applying for aunt and uncle as before.  

 Great-grandfather 曾お祖父さん ひおじいさん
 Great-grandmother 曾お祖母さん ひおばあさん
 Great-grandchild(ren) 曾孫さん ひまごさん
 Grandfather お祖父さん おじいさん
 Grandmother お祖母さん おばあさん
 Grandchild(ren) お孫さん おまごさん
 Granduncle 大叔・伯父さん おおおじさん
 Grandaunt 大叔・伯母さん おおおばさん
 Parents ご両親 ごりょうしん
 Father お父さん おとうさん
 Mother お母さん おかあさん
 Uncle 叔・伯父さん おじさん
 Aunt 叔・叔母さん おばさん
 Husband ご主人、旦那さん ごしゅじん、だんなさん
 Wife 奥さん おくさん
 Child お子さん おこさん
 Son 息子さん むすこさん
 Daughter 娘さん、お嬢さん むすめさん、おじょうさん
 Older Brother お兄さん おにいさん
 Younger Brother 弟さん おとうとさん
 Older Sister お姉さん おねえさん
 Younger Sister 妹さん いもうとさん
 Siblings ご兄弟 ごきょうだい

4. 彼女は外見がいけんはおねえさんと似ているが、性格せいかくことなるよ。
    She takes after her sister in appearance, but their characters differ.

会話: アメリカ人りゅうがくせい、セス・クンロードがホームステイさきのおさんと話している。


お母さん: セス、家族写真しゃしん(を)持ってる?
お母さん: ちょっと見せてもらってもいい?

語彙ごい Vocabulary

写真 = Picture    高校生 = High school student    若い = Young   よく言われます =  said a lot
~に似ている = To resemble… 

Neutral Family Terms

     Despite there being a great divide in family terminology, there are still many terms that are neutral and may be used for both one’s own family and someone’s family. Below is a list of the most common of these neutral terms. 

 Nephew 甥 おい
 Niece 姪 めい
 Cousin いとこ いとこ
 Second cousin はとこ・またいとこ・いとこの子 はとこ・またいとこ・いとこのこ
 Father and Mother 父母 ふぼ
 Sisters 姉妹 しまい
 Brothers/Siblings 兄弟 きょうだい
 Younger Siblings 弟妹 ていまい
 Brother-in-law 義兄弟 ぎきょうだい
 Brother-in-law 義弟 ぎてい
 Older sister-in-law 義姉 ぎし
 Younger sister-in-law 義妹 ぎまい
 Son-in-law 娘の夫、(婿)婿、女婿 むすめのおっと、(むすめ)むこ、じょせい
 Daughter-in-law 息子の妻、嫁、義理の娘 むすこのつま、よめ、ぎりのむすめ
 Father-in-law 義理の父、義父、舅 ぎりのちち、ぎふ、しゅうと
 Mother-in-law 義理の母、義母、姑 ぎりのはは、ぎぼ、しゅうと
 Relatives 親族、身寄り しんぞく、みより
 Ancestors 祖先、先祖 そせん、せんぞ

     Family members in this group can still be made polite in reference to someone else. For example, the nephew and niece of another person can be referred to as ごさん and ごさん respectively. Other family members are simply discussed, if necessary, with ~さん to be polite. 親御おやご is a similar looking word that may respectfully be used to address someone’s parents.


  先祖 typically refers to one’s ancestors, particularly those in your 家. You may hear people refer to them respectfully as ご先祖さま. You never hear ご祖先さま because 祖先 is impersonal. 祖 refers to the founder of a lineage, dynasty, or even a field of study. “Ancestor” as in biological origin is normally 始祖.

After Grandchildren

It’s interesting to know that Japanese has words for those who have not just great-grandchildren, but offspring for 8 generations ahead of you (just in case you live that long). The terms up to great-great-grandchildren are usually known by most speakers. The others are just fun to look at. 

 Child 子 こ
 Grandchild 孫 まご
 Great-grandchild ひ孫 ひまご
 Great-great-grandchild 玄孫 やしゃご
 Great-great-great-grandchild 来孫 らいそん
 Great-great-great-great-grandchild 昆孫 こんそん
 Great-great-great-great-great-grandchild 仍孫 じょうそん
 Great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchild 雲孫 うんそん

How to Write いとこ

     The word for cousin, いとこ, is a very odd word to write in Japanese. It is written differently depending on the age and gender relationship with the speaker. 

 Older Girls/Younger Guys 従姉弟 Older Guys/Younger Girls 従兄妹
 Older Girls 従姉 Older Guys 従兄
 Younger Girls 従妹 Younger Guys 従弟
 Guys 従兄弟 Girls 従姉妹

Word Note: You may also use the 音読み of the characters to distinguish.

Using Terms for Someone Else’s Family for Your Own

     Many speakers will call their mom, dad, older brother or sister, and grandparents with the terms that are supposed to be for someone’s family. But, if you use them for you own, you may slightly change their appearance. For example, instead of -さん you might choose -ちゃん or drop -さん altogether. It’s also even possible to drop the お- at the beginning of these phrases. 

6. おさん、おもちゃほしい!
    Mom, I want a toy!

7. おさん、ほんとにしゃべりすぎだ。
    Dad, you really talk too much.

8. 姉さん、してる?
    Hey sis’, what are you doin’?


  Sino-Japanese Native
 Stepmother 継母(けいぼ) 継母(ままはは)
 Stepfather 継父(けいふ) 継父(ままちち)
 Stepchild 継子(けいし) 継子(ままこ)
 Stepson  継息子(ままむすこ)
 Stepdaughter  継娘(ままむすめ)

Half Family

     To create the terms for half-brother and half-sister, you first must decide whether they are from a stepfather or a stepmother. For each combination, there is a technical, conversational, and insensitive term available.

The technical terms utilize Sino-Japanese vocabulary. The conversational terms are the native vocabulary equivalents of the Sino-Japanese terms. The insensitive terms utilize the terms 種違い (of different seed) and 腹違 い (of a different womb) to refer to “by a different father” and “by a different mother” respectively. 

 Meaning Technical Term Conversational Term Insensitive Term
 By a different father 異父(いふ)・・・ 父親違いの・・・ 種違いの・・・
 Siblings 異父兄弟(いふきょうだい) 父親違いの兄弟 種違いの兄弟
 Sisters 異父姉妹(いふしまい) 父親違いの姉妹 種違いの姉妹
 Older brother 異父兄(いふけい) 父親違いの兄 種違いの兄
 Older sister 異父姉(いふし) 父親違いの姉 種違いの姉
 Younger brother 異父弟(いふてい) 父親違いの弟 種違いの弟
 Younger sister 異父妹(いふまい) 父親違いの妹 種違いの妹
 By a different mother 異母・・・ 母親違いの・・・ 腹違いの・・・
 Siblings 異母兄弟(いぼきょうだい) 母親違いの兄弟 腹違いの兄弟
 Sisters 異母姉妹(いぼしまい) 母親違いの姉妹 腹違いの姉妹
 Older brother 異母兄(いぼけい) 母親違いの兄 腹違いの兄
 Older sister 異母姉(いぼし) 母親違いの姉 腹違いの姉
 Younger brother 異母弟(いぼてい) 母親違いの弟 腹違いの弟
 Younger sister 異母妹(いぼまい) 母親違いの妹 腹違いの妹