Japanese Family Terms – How to Address Your Own Relatives and Others’

In this guide, you will learn the fundamentals of the Japanese family terms, focusing primarily on informal and formal terms. By learning how to use both informal and formal terms, you will be able to talk about your own family (informal) as well as address someone else’s family (formal).

A family eating pizza on a table

Japanese Family

In Japan, like in any other Asian country, the family is regarded as the most important sector of society. The family members are treated with respect. This is evident in the language used toward them. Each family members have their own name according to one’s relationship with that member.

A Japanese family is made up of immediate family members such as father, mother, and siblings and extended families such as grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, and cousins.

In this guide, we’ll teach you the different Japanese family terms you can use to address your own family members and other people’s family.

“Family” in Japanese

The word for “family” in Japanese is かぞく (kazoku). So when talking about your family, you can say わたしの かぞく (watashi no kazoku) which means “My family”.

For example:

わたし の かぞく は かんこく から きました。(watashi no kazokuwa kankokukara kimashita.)

My family is from Korea. 

わたし の かぞく は たべる の が すき です。(watashi no kazokuwa taberunoga suki desu.)

My family likes to eat.

“Family member” in Japanese

The word “family member” in Japanese is かぞく の いちいん (kazoku no ichiin).

Addressing family members in Japanese

The Japanese have different family words to address family members. The family words vary according to whose family member are you addressing or talking about. The Japanese family words are different when you’re talking about or addressing your own family members and when it’s a member of a different family.

In a while, you’ll be adding a few more words to your Japanese vocabulary.

Addressing your own family

Getting familiar with these terms should be the first step to learning how to address family members in Japanese. These terms are used commonly in Japan, so you will probably hear them quite often throughout day-to-day life.

Remember to use these words, when you’re talking about your own family. Use it when you’re in a casual and informal setting or situation.

Immediate family in Japanese

An immediate family is きんしんしゃ (kinshinsha) in Japanese. It’s made up of grandparents, parents, siblings, children, husband, wife, and spouse. In this lesson, we’ll group the Japanese family words according to these groups.

Grandparents in Japanese

Grandparents in Japanese is そふぼ (sofubo). When talking about or addressing your grandfather you can say そふ (sofu) while grandmother is そぼ (sobo).

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Grandparents祖父母そふぼsofubo
Grandfather祖父そふsofu
Grandmother祖母そぼsobo

Parents in Japanese

Parents in Japanese are called りょうしん (ryōshin) while father is ちち (chichi) and mother is はは (haha).

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Parents両親りょうしんryōshin
Fatherちちchichi
Motherははhaha

Siblings in Japanese

Siblings are made up of brothers and sisters. Siblings in Japanese are called きょうだい (kyōdai).

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Sibling兄弟きょうだいkyōdai
Older brotherあにani
Younger brotherおとうとotōto
Older sisterあねane
Younger sisterいもうとimōto

Children in Japanese

Children are called こども (kodomo) in the Japanese language. But they have a specific word used for a female and male child.

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Children子供こどもkodomo
Son息子むすこmusuko
Daughterむすめmusume

The image has 2 adults and 2 kids eating food on a table

Spouse in Japanese

The word spouse is はいぐうしゃ in Japanese. However, in Japan, they have exact words to call their respective spouse.

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Married couple or “Husband and Wife”夫婦ふうふfūfu
Husbandおっとotto
Wifeつまtsuma

List of Family Words in Japanese

Here’s the summary of all the Japanese family member vocabulary you’ll use to address your own family.

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Family家族かぞくkazoku
Parents両親りょうしんryōshin
Fatherちち chichichichi
Motherははhaha
Sibling兄弟きょうだいkyōdai
Older brotherあにani
Younger brotherおとうとotōto
Older sisterあねane
Younger sisterいもうとimōto
Grandfather祖父そふsofu
Grandmother祖母そぼsobo
Married couple or “Husband and Wife”夫婦ふうふfūfu
Husbandおっとotto
Wifeつまtsuma
Son息子むすこmusuko
Daughterむすめmusume
Children 子供こどもkodomo

Relatives

To add to your Japanese vocabulary for family members, let’s learn about addressing your relatives. The word relative is translated as しんせき (shinseki). Below is a list of people related to your own family in the Japanese language.

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Relatives親戚しんせきshinseki
Uncle (older than your parent)伯父おじoji
Uncle (younger than your parent)叔父おじoji
Aunt (older than your parent)伯母おばoba
Aunt (younger than your parent)叔母おばoba
Cousin (male)従兄弟いとこitoko
Cousin (female)従姉妹いとこitoko
Nephewおいoi
Niece めいmei
Grandchildまご mago

Your in-laws

When it comes to addressing your in-laws, the general rule of thumb is to add “義理の”(ぎりの giri no)before their relation in the family. Although “義理の” is not a direct translation of “in-law” (義理 actually refers to the Japanese value of duty and obligation), you can add “義理の” as a prefix to change the relation to “in-law.”

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Father-in-Law義理の父ぎりのちちgiri no chichi
Mother-in-Law義理の母ぎりのははgiri no haha
Brother-in-Law (Older) 義理の兄ぎりのあに giri no ani
Brother-in-Law (Younger) 義理の弟ぎりのおとうとgiri no otōto
Sister-in-Law (Older) ぎりのあねぎりのあねgiri no ane
Sister-in-Law (Younger) 義理の妹ぎりのいもうとgiri no imōto
Son-in-Law 義理の息子ぎりのむすこgiri no musuko
Daughter-in-Law義理の娘ぎりのむすめgiri no musume

Example sentences:

私のは6歳です。

わたし の いもうと は ろく  さい です。

Watashi no imōto wa roku sai desu.

My younger sister is 6 years old.

は大学教授です。

あに は だいがく きょうじゅ です。

Ani wa daigaku kyōju desu.

My older brother is a university professor.

私は義理の姉がいます。

わたし は ぎりのあね が います。

Watashi wa giri no ane ga imasu.

I have a (older) sister-in-law.

Addressing someone else’s family

Now that you’re comfortable talking about your own family, next we will look at words that you should use when addressing someone else’s family. As mentioned earlier, there’s a different way of addressing or talking about family members of another family.

Below is a list of Japanese vocabulary for someone else’s family members. A lot of these terms end with an honorific suffix さん (-san) to emphasize respect and politeness toward others.

Remember to use these words especially when you are addressing or talking about someone else’s family. You’ll also use this list of vocabulary when you are in a serious and formal setting or situation.

Tip: If you want to be extra respectful, change the さん (-san) honorific to a 様 (さま –sama) honorific (For example: お父さん otōsan → お父 otōsama)

Someone else’s immediate family

Below is a table of words you’ll use to address or talk about other’s immediate family members.

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Familyご家族ごかぞくgokazoku
Parentsご両親ごりょうしんgoryōshin
Fatherお父さんおとうさんotōsan
Motherお母さんおかあさんokāsan
Siblingsご兄弟ごきょうだいgokyōdai
Older brotherお兄さんおにいさんoniisan
Younger brother弟さんおとうとさんotōtosan
Older sisterお姉さんおねえさんonēsan
Younger sister妹さんいもうとさん imōtosan
Grandfatherお爺さんおじいさんojiisan
Grandmotherお婆さんおばあさんobāsan
Married couple or “Husband and Wife”ご夫婦ごふうふgofūfu
Husbandご主人ごしゅじんgoshujin
Wife奥さんおくさんokusan
Son息子さんむすこさんmusukosan
Daughterお嬢さんおじょうさんojōsan
Childrenお子さんおこさんokosan

Kids, parents having fun playing beach ball game

Someone else’s relatives

Earlier we learned the vocabulary we need to address people related to our own family. This time, we’ll learn how we can address people related to someone else’s family.

For the word “relative” in the Japanese language, ごしんせき (goshinseki) is used.

Let’s take a close look at the Japanese vocabulary below. Pay close attention to how the written kanji changes for uncle, aunt, and cousin, depending on the context (i.e., older or younger for aunts/uncles and male or female for cousins).

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomaji
Relativesご親戚ごしんせきgoshinseki
Uncle (older than your parent)伯父さんおじさんojisan
Uncle (younger than your parent)叔父さんおじさんojisan
Aunt (older than your parent)伯母さんおばさんobasan
Aunt (younger than your parent)叔母さんおばさんobasan
Cousin (male)従兄弟さんいとこさん itokosan
Cousin (female)従姉妹さんいとこさん itokosan
Nephew甥御さんおいごさんoigosan
Niece姪御さんめいごさんmeigosan
Grandchildお孫さんおまごさんomagosan

Your in-laws

When addressing someone else’s family members, it’s important to address them respectfully by adding the honorific suffix さん (-san).

EnglishJapanese KanjiJapanese HiraganaRomanji
Father-in-Law義理のお父さんぎりのおとうさんgiri no otōsan
Mother-in-Law義理のお母さんぎりのおかあさんgiri no okāsan
(Older) Brother-in-Law義理のお兄さんぎりのおにいさんgiri no oniisan
(Younger) Brother-in-Law義理の弟さんぎりのおとうとさんgiri no otōtosan
(Older) Sister-in-Law義理のお姉さんぎりのおねえさんgiri no onēsan
(Younger) Sister-in-Law義理の妹さんぎりのいもうとさんgiri no imōtosan
Son-in-Law義理の息子さんぎりのむすこさんgiri no musukosan
Daughter-in-Law義理のお嬢さんぎりのおじょうさんgiri no ojōsan

Example sentences:

私はあなたのご両親にお会いしたいです。

わたし は あなた の ごりょうしん に おあい したい です。

Watashi wa anata no goryōshin ni oai shitai desu.

I want to meet your parents.

山田さんのお父様は何をされている方ですか?

やまださん の おとうさま は なにを されている かた ですか?

Yamada-san no otōsama wa nani o sareteiru kata desu ka?

What does Yamada-san’s father do for a living?

Why learn the Japanese Family Terms?

It’s very important for you to learn the terms used in a family in Japanese. For example, you are at a formal dinner party, and your manager asks you about your family. As you describe some of your family members, you also decide to ask a question about their family. Now, are you going to use the same words that you used to describe your own family when you ask a question about your manager’s family?

It’s not just limited to conversations about your family that make learning the Japanese terms used in a family important. Whether it may be filling out an emergency contact or casually talking about your family at your company’s 歓迎会 (kangei-kai or welcome party), knowing some basic family terms in Japanese should come in handy at some point. But memorizing just a few terms won’t always cut it, as there are different words that are used for different occasions.

Let us know how many members are there in your family in the comment section by using the Japanese family terms you learned today!

    4 replies to "Japanese Family Terms – How to Address Your Own Relatives and Others’"

    • Larry V. Shumway

      Thanks for this concise review of Japanese family terms list using kanji, kana, and romaji.

      • 90 Day Japanese

        Awesome, thanks for your comment! ^^ If you want, you can visit the 90 Day Japanese Blog to find more great content on learning Japanese. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel for video lessons. You’ll get updated when our latest videos become available.

    • straining

      І was able to find good informatіon from your blog
      articles.

      • 90 Day Japanese

        Thanks for your comment! I’m glad that our articles have been useful to you. ^^ To find more great content on learning Japanese, visit the 90 Day Japanese Blog. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel for video lessons. You’ll get updated when our latest videos become available.

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