Japanese Words for Different Family Members

Published September 1st, 2022

For starters, the Japanese word for family is 家族 (かぞく, kazoku). Now let's dig deeper!

Parents and Children

The general term for parent(s) is 両親 (りょうしん, ryōshin).


母 (はは, haha) is the word used when referring to one’s mother, but not when addressing her directly. This term is casual, so it should not be used to speak about someone else’s mother. To talk about someone else’s mother, お母さん (おかあさん, okaasan) is used. This term is also the most common way to address your own mother. お母さん is similar to “mother,” and the honorific お can be dropped to make 母さん (かあさん, kaasan), which is closer to “mom.”

Many variations also exist. These depend on your relationship with your mother or the age of the child addressing their mother. Small children may address their mother as お母ちゃん (おかあちゃん, okaachan), which is close to “mommy,” or ママ (mama), a loan word from English.

お母様 (おかあさま, okaasama) is a very respectful way to address one’s mother. This term can also be used to refer to the matriarch of a family.

お袋 (おふくろ, ofukuro) is a casual term of endearment used mostly by adult men to address their mother. The word 袋 (ふくろ, fukuro) literally means “purse” or “bag.” The reason this word is used to refer to mothers is debated. Some believe it is because in old times, mothers were in charge of the family’s finances. Others believe the “bag” is a symbol for the womb.

Lastly, stepmother is 継母 (ままはは, mamahaha).


父 (ちち, chichi) is the word for father. This word is not used to address your own father, however. To address your father, use お父さん (おとうさん, otōsan). This term is also used to talk about someone else’s father. The honorific お can be dropped when addressing one’s own father if they are close.

Like mother, there are variations of father depending on the relationship with their child. Younger children may address their father with お父ちゃん (おとうちゃん, otōchan), similar to daddy, or パパ (papa), a loan word from English.

A very formal version of お父さん is お父様 (おとうさま, otōsama). Since this term is so formal, however, it is rarely used in modern times.

親父 (おやじ, oyaji) is a term of endearment used in informal conversation. This term is most often used by men addressing their father’s who are 50 or older. It is similar to the affectionate terms “old man” or “pop.”

Stepfather is 継父 (ままちち, mamachichi).


Son in Japanese is 息子 (むすこ, musuko) and daughter is 娘 (むすめ, musume). Add the honorific ーさん when referring to someone else’s son. To refer to someone else's daughter, use お嬢さん (おじょうさん, ojōsan).

The general term to refer to your own children is 子供 (こども, kodomo). Refer to someone else’s children as お子さん (おこさん, okosan).



兄 (あに, ani) is a general term meaning older brother and can be used when speaking about your older brother to someone. When addressing your older brother, it is most common to call him お兄さん (おにいさん, oniisan). This term should also be used when speaking about someone else’s brother. When addressing your own brother, however, the term can change depending on the relationship you have with him. Variations include dropping the honorific お to make 兄さん (にいさん, niisan), or changing the suffix to ―ちゃん to create お兄ちゃん (おにいちゃん, oniichan) or 兄ちゃん (にいちゃん, niichan). These variations are all used as terms of endearment used by those who have a close relationship with their older brother.

弟 (おとうと, otōto) means younger brother. Unlike older brothers, younger brothers are not addressed by an honorific, and older siblings will address their younger siblings by their name. When speaking about your younger brother or someone else’s younger brother, 弟 is used. When speaking about someone else’s younger brother, ーさん should be added to the end to show respect.


姉 (あね, ane) means older sister and can be used when speaking about her to someone else. お姉さん (おねえさん, onēsan) is used to address your older sister or to speak about someone else’s older sister. Like with older brother, the term can change depending on the relationship. The same variations apply here and お姉さん can be changed to 姉さん (ねえさん, nēsan), お姉ちゃん (おねえちゃん, onēchan), or 姉ちゃん (ねえちゃん, nēchan) for siblings who are close with their big sister.

妹 (いもうと, imōto) means younger sister. The same rules apply as with younger brother. Older siblings do not refer to their younger sister as 妹 or 妹さん but by her name. When talking about someone else’s younger sister, 妹さん (いもうとさん, imōtosan) is used to show respect.


祖父母 (そふぼ, sofubo) means grandparents.


The word for grandmother is お婆さん (おばあさん, obaasan). This is the term used to refer to your grandmother or someone else’s grandmother. When addressing your grandmother, you can call her 祖母 (そぼ, sobo) or お婆ちゃん (おばあちゃん, obaa-chan). Young children may address their grandmother as ババァ.


お爺さん (おじいさん, ojiisan) is the word for grandfather. This is the term used when speaking about your grandfather or someone else’s grandfather. When addressing your grandfather, you can call him 祖父 (そふ, sofu), お爺さん (おじいさん, ojiisan), or じじ (jiji).


Grandchild is 孫 (まご, mago). When speaking about someone else’s grandchild, add honorifics to show respect: お孫さん (おまごさん, omagosan). 孫 (まご, mago) also means grandson. To say granddaughter, (まご, mago) is added to make 孫娘 (まごむすめ, magomusume).

Great Grandparents

Great grandparents have the kanji 曽祖 (ひい, hi) added to the beginning of the title. 曽祖母 (ひいばば, hiibaba) means great-grandmother and 曽祖父 (ひいじじ, hiijiji) means great-grandfather. 曽祖 is sometimes also pronounced そう (sou), but this is very formal and therefore very uncommon.

Extended Family


Aunt is pronounced おば (oba). If the aunt is older than your parent, the kanji used is 伯母. If the aunt is younger, use the kanji 叔母. The honorific ーさん is added if you are referring to someone else’s aunt. Note that the Japanese words for aunt and grandmother are very similar: おばあさん (obaasan) is grandmother while おばさん (obasan) is aunt.


The word for uncle is pronounced おじ (oji). If the uncle is older than your parent, use the kanji 伯父, and if he is younger, use the kanji 叔父. The honorific ーさん is added if you are referring to someone else’s uncle. And like aunt/grandmother, take note of the similarities between uncle and grandfather: おじいさん (ojiisan) is grandfather while おじさん (ojisan) is uncle. You can decipher the differences by remembering that grandparents have double vowels while aunt and uncle do not.


Cousin is pronounced いとこ (itoko). Female cousins use the kanji 従姉妹, while male cousins use 従兄弟. Like other titles, add the honorific ーさん when referring to someone else’s cousin.

Nephew and Niece

Nephew in Japanese is 甥 (おい, oi) and niece is 姪 (めい, mei). Again, the honorific ーさん is added when speaking about another’s niece or nephew.

Family By Marriage


The word for spouse in Japanese is 配偶者 (はいぐうしゃ, haigūsha) and a married couple is 夫婦 (ふうふ, fūfu).

The word for husband is 夫 (おっと, otto). It can be used to refer to your husband, or someone else’s husband. You can address your own husband as 主人 (しゅじん, shujin). Someone else’s husband can also be referred to as 旦那 ( だんな, danna), or ご主人 (ごしゅじん, goshujin), but this one is very formal.

Wife in Japanese is 妻 (つま, tsuma) while someone else’s wife is 奥さん (おくさん, okusan).


In-laws are referred to with 義理の (ぎりの, giri no). This term is placed before the person’s title. For example, your daughter in law is 義理の娘 (ぎりのむすめ, giri no musume). In-laws follow the same rules as all the words above, just with 義理の added in front!

This term can also be used for members of your step family.