free website hit counter

Why do Japanese say SAN or Chan?


Japanese language has a unique way of addressing people and things, and the use of honorifics is an integral part of their culture. One of the most common honorifics used in Japanese is “san” and “chan.” These two honorifics are added to the end of a name to show respect and familiarity. In this article, we will explore the origins of these honorifics, how they are used in Japanese society, and what they signify.

The Origin of “San” and “Chan”

The use of “san” and “chan” dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868) when Japan was ruled by a shogun. During this time, people were expected to show respect towards their superiors, and one way to do this was by using honorifics. The honorific “san” was used to show respect towards someone who was older, higher in status or authority, or not familiar with the speaker. “Chan,” on the other hand, was used towards children, close friends, or someone younger.

Japanese Snack Box

“San” and “Chan” in Japanese Society

Today, the use of “san” and “chan” is still prevalent in Japanese society. It is considered polite to address someone with an honorific, especially if they are older or have a higher status than you. In business settings, using the correct honorific can be crucial as it shows respect towards clients or colleagues. Moreover, the use of “chan” is often reserved for close friends or family members.

The Significance of Using Honorifics

Using honorifics like “san” and “chan” is more than just a formality in Japanese culture. It carries a deeper meaning that reflects the Japanese values of respect for others, humility, and harmony. Addressing someone with an appropriate honorific shows that you understand your social position in relation to others and acknowledges their status or achievements.

How to Use “San” and “Chan”

The use of “san” and “chan” can be tricky for non-native speakers as there are many factors to consider such as age, gender, social status, and context. Generally speaking, it is safe to use “san” when addressing someone you don’t know well or someone who holds a higher status than you. Meanwhile, “chan” is used towards children or close friends who are younger or around your age.

Other Honorifics Used in Japanese

Aside from “san” and “chan,” there are other honorifics used in Japanese such as “kun,” which is used towards men or boys who are younger or have a lower status than you. Meanwhile, “sama” is a more formal honorific used towards those who hold a higher status such as doctors, politicians or religious leaders.

Honorifics in Japanese Names

In Japanese names, honorifics can be added after the given name to indicate respect towards the person. For example, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s name is often referred to as Abe-san or simply Abe.

Honorific Titles in Business Settings

In business settings, honorific titles are commonly used to address colleagues or clients. For instance, a client may be addressed as Ojisan (uncle) or Obasan (auntie) when they are older than you but not necessarily elderly.

Honorifics in Anime/Manga

Fans of anime/manga may be familiar with the use of honorifics like “senpai,” which is used towards someone who is older or has more experience than you. Meanwhile, “kohai” refers to someone younger or less experienced.

Honorifics in Pop Culture

Honorifics have also made their way into pop culture with many celebrities adopting them as part of their stage names. Examples include Utada Hikaru (Hikki), Matsuda Seiko (Seiko-chan), and Nakamura Shido (Shidoken).

Honorifics in Western Languages

While Western languages do not have an exact equivalent for Japanese honorifics, some languages have developed similar forms of address such as Mr., Mrs., Miss., Sir., Madam., etc.

The Future of Honorifics in Japan

As Japan continues to modernize and globalize, some may wonder if the use of honorifics will become obsolete. However, based on recent surveys, it seems that the majority of Japanese people still value the use of honorifics as part of their cultural identity.


The use of honorifics like “san” and “chan” is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and reflects their values of respect for others and humility. While it may seem complicated at first for non-native speakers, understanding how to use them correctly can go a long way in building relationships with Japanese people. As Japan continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how these cultural practices adapt and change over time.

What is the difference between Chan and San in Japanese?

In Japanese, “chan” is a cutesy version of “san” that is typically used to refer to children and girls. The change in pronunciation from “s” to “ch” is considered adorable. However, “chan” can also be used to refer to an affectionate adult. In Japanese culture, it is generally viewed as rude to refer to oneself in the third person, but using “chan” is an exception to this rule.

Do you call a girl Chan or SAN?

In Japanese, the honorific “chan” is a cute and child-like version of “san” and is often used to refer to children and girls. This honorific involves changing the “s” sound to a “ch” sound. Similar to “kun”, friends and romantic partners can also use this honorific when addressing each other.

Why do Japanese say San after a name?

In Japanese business culture, it is customary to add the honorific suffix “san” after someone’s last name as a sign of respect. Other honorific suffixes like “sama” or “sensei” can also be used to indicate high respect for customers or professionals.

What does Chan Kun and San mean?

The honorific “San” is a way to show care and respect for others, and is recommended for use in all situations. “Kun” is typically used for younger boys, while “Chan” is used for girls, but there are nuanced differences in their meanings.

Can I use Chan with a girl?

The suffix “chan” is used to express affection towards someone, particularly young children, close friends, babies, grandparents, and sometimes adolescent girls. It can also be used towards cute animals, romantic partners, or youthful women.

What’s Domo in Japanese?

The word DOMO in Japanese means “very” and is commonly used to express appreciation or apologize. For example, when purchasing something from a store, the store clerk may say “DOMO ARIGATOU” meaning thank you very much. It can also be used as a greeting similar to “hello” and simply saying DOMO can be a casual way of saying “thank you” or “thanks”.

It is important to note that the use of honorifics in Japanese is not limited to just language. It is also reflected in behavior and body language, such as bowing to show respect or using polite gestures. These non-verbal cues are just as important as the actual words spoken and can vary depending on the situation and the person being addressed.

Another interesting aspect of honorifics in Japanese culture is how they can change based on a person’s occupation or role. For example, a teacher may be referred to as “sensei,” while a chef may be called “shokunin.” These titles not only show respect for their profession but also acknowledge their expertise and dedication to their craft.

While the use of honorifics may seem rigid and formal, it is also a way for Japanese people to express warmth and familiarity towards one another. The use of “chan” towards a close friend or family member can create a sense of intimacy and affection that may not be conveyed through other means.

In recent years, there has been some debate among younger generations in Japan about the relevance of honorifics in modern society. Some argue that it creates unnecessary barriers between people and perpetuates hierarchical structures. However, many still view it as an important aspect of their cultural identity and a way to show respect towards others.

In conclusion, the use of honorifics like “san” and “chan” is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and reflects their values of respect, humility, and harmony. While it may seem complicated for non-native speakers, understanding how to use them correctly can go a long way in building relationships with Japanese people. As Japan continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how these cultural practices adapt and change over time while still maintaining their significance.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.