In the Japanese language, there are several different words to refer to a woman, but depending on the word you choose, the meaning can be human beings different.

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On an night out with the ladies at a Tokyo bar, one acquaintance jokingly recalled one anecdote in i beg your pardon supermarket employee addressed her as okusan. The word, she stated as she impatiently gulped her beer, is not correct — she’s solitary (and loves it), is focused on she career and never intends on structure a family. But apparently, the simple act of purchase carrots instantly placed her in the category of a married woman. While we brushed off the conversation, fast to focus on an ext important points (wine), the topic maintained coming approximately — making united state ponder the etymology behind the plenty of words because that “woman” in Japan.

Onna (女)

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If you’ve lived in Japan for a when you’ve probably heard human being (aka the media) addressing particular celebrities and also classy females as fujin. Dewi Fujin (Sukarno), the loved and hated prima donna that Japanese high culture and a regular TV personality, is a prime example. She wears the title since she to be married come Indonesia’s an initial president Sukarno and also is able come afford a way of living most working women can’t.

Fujin is a term offered for females of high status, who are usually married to politicians or important, renowned public figures. It deserve to be analyzed as ”madam” or ”lady” in English and also is a term connected with high esteem and financial affluence. The is also used at room stores because that female fashion or goods. That is origin, however, is stated to have acquired from the mix of the kanji for “woman” and “broom.”

Josei (女性)


Comprised of two kanji characters, “woman” and “sex,” this is the most basic term provided to describe women and is the tantamount to “female” in English. It’s additionally the safest and also most politically correct of lock all. It became the main term used in politics documents, instead of fujin in the beforehand 1990s ~ women’s organizations pointed out — quite properly — that the latter implies all women room mature and married.

Ojosan/Ojosama (お嬢さん/お嬢様)


The direct translation the this term is “(someone else’s) daughter,” despite if used on adults it may indicate that someone is spoiled, immature and dependant ~ above others. That usually supplied to describe reasonably affluent young women who live a carefree life and also have little to problem about. In other words, if the Kardashian sister were born here, we’re pretty sure they would have actually been dubbed “The K-ojosamas.”

Okusan (奥さん)


Literally an interpretation “Ms. Interior,” okusan (or the an ext polite okusama) is the most common means to refer to someone’s wife. But like us saw earlier in our friend’s anecdote, that is typically (and often ignorantly) provided on women who just take place to it is in of a marital age and social status. The kanji character for okusama means “not just interior, however the depths much within a building” as Kittredge Cherry points the end in her publication Womansword: What Japanese native Say about Women. That illustrates the inferior, yet crucial, position of observing everything from the backside the married women had actually in the family throughout many of Japan’s history. The hatchet is frequently used by Japanese males once talking around their own wives still today, though it’s gradually being changed by the much more neutral tsuma.

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Okaasan (お母さん)


One of the most confusing native in the Japanese language because that foreigners is, by all means, the word okaasan (mother). Everyone seems to it is in an okaasan here, even if it is it’s your own mother, her friend’s mother, her wife, or the mom of your kids’ classmate. V its origins of a woman v breasts, the kanji because that okaasan is supplied (obviously) for ladies who have children, but it can likewise be provided to resolve an adult woman who is presumably married and also has a family. It’s typical for husbands to call their wives okaasan or mama instead of utilizing their name. Mama, ~ above the other hand, is also commonly supplied to resolve female owners of bars or karaoke diners (“Mama-san”).

Interested in learning much more about the social and linguistic elements of certain Japanese words? Leave united state a question in the comments below!