Personal Pronouns

Technically, these are all just nouns, but they're used as pronouns. They're also often important and confusing enough that I've decided to give each one as full a description as I can. Kanji in parentheses are less common than the kana version, and if I don't list a kanji, it's rare enough that I either couldn't find it or don't think it's worth listing.

Unlike most nouns, personal pronouns are frequently changed when used as plurals. Add ~達 (-tachi) or ~等 (-ra) to any of the below non-plural personal pronouns (or to a person's name, to refer to the group the person is in). 達 is fairly neutral, and 等 has a bit of a derogatory connotation. That's why 俺達 (ore-tachi) is common while 俺等 (ore-ra) is not, あなた達 (anata-tachi) is far more common than あなた等 (anata-ra), 僕達 (boku-tachi) and 僕等 (boku-ra) are both fairly common, and 貴様達 (kisama-tachi) is very rare while 貴様等 (kisama-ra) is almost expected when speaking to a hated group. Of course, there's more to it than that. 私達 (watashi-tachi) is common, but 私等 (watashi-ra) is not, possibly because the former just flows better.

Pronouns for Oneself

[Social/Job Position] z

People will sometimes refer to themselves by their title or position. This seems to be fairly common in the case of a teacher (using 先生 (sensei)) or an older relative (using the appropriate relation word) speaking to a child, but not very common otherwise.

[Given Name (own)] 3x

Young children, especially girls, may refer to themselves by their own name. This is sometimes used symbolically as an indication of childish innocence and optimism. If a character switches from referring to herself by her given name to using a pronoun, that's generally an indication that she's had some kind of maturing experience or loss of innocence. Conversely, an adult referring to herself in third person usually indicates an affected childishness, or perhaps a childlike simplicity.

あたい (私) Atai 3x

While this is a feminine first-person pronoun, it's a thuggish feminine with a "mess with me and I'll rip your head off" sort of connotation. It's rarely used outside of fiction, and is uncommon even there. According to goo's dictionary function, it was used mostly by women and children in places like the Tokyo slums. Ayla from Chrono Trigger uses あたい (before switching to her name), as does Mayonnay (Flea), who probably isn't even really female. The female rogue in the Ragnarok Online anime (whose name I can't remember) is an excellent example of the sort of person who would talk like this. Cirno of the Touhou series also talks like this, as befits her tendency to pick fights with anyone for no real reason regardless of how much they outclass her.

あたし (私) Atashi 3x

A common first-person pronoun in casual speech for women, particularly young women, and perhaps especially in fiction. More formal pronouns are of course more appropriate for more formal situations. Men should normally avoid using あたし, unless it's clearly as a joke. あたし is derived from わたし (watashi), and is usually written in hiragana to distinguish it. People who use あたし for "I" are likely to use あんた (anta) or あなた (anata) for "you". Too many female characters to list use あたし.

あっし (私) Asshi ??

A variant on わたし. I've seen this once, in an unusual setting in Ar tonelico II. While a female character uses it there, the goo dictionary indicates that it's an uncommon but typically male pronoun more often used among craftsmen.

内 (うち) Uchi 2z

Used as "we" when speaking on behalf of a group or organization, such as a family, class in school, or company. The kanji means "interior", which (to me anyway) suggests the idea of things internal to the group.

うち (内?) Uchi 3x

Used as a first-person pronoun by some women in western Japanese dialects, or so I've heard. Kitsune from Love Hina is one character who uses うち to refer to herself.

おいら (己等) Oira ?y

An uncommon first-person pronoun, derived (or so I've heard) from 俺ら (ore-ra), which would be plural normally. Relatively few characters use it, including Chichiri from Fushigi Yuugi (who also ends almost every sentence with のだ (no da) for no real reason) and the Sprite from Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana). Though, on that note, it seems to be fairly popular for (male) little magical creatures like sprites and fairies. Popo from Atelier Iris is another one who talks like this.

おのれ (己) Onore H?

A self-deprecating humble first-person pronoun, and rather outdated. The same word is more commonly used as an insulting second-person pronoun. This seems to be a result of Japanese pronouns having their origins in ordinary nouns, as anything that's humbling when applied to oneself is likely to be insulting when applied to another.

おら (己) Ora 3y

An equivalent to おれ (ore) used in at least one dialect. Mousse from Ranma 1/2 and Shippou from Inuyasha both use it.

俺 (おれ) Ore 3y

A common masculine first-person pronoun. It has kind of an "I'm the man" connotation, though the exact impression depends a lot more on how you say it. People who use 俺 for "I" are likely to use お前 (omae) or おめー (omee) for "you". Some women may use this and other masculine pronouns if they're trying to sound tough (the Internet has apparently dubbed this type the オレっ娘 (OREkko)). The title character of Naruto is who uses the full extent of the "yes I'm awesome" connotation through tone of voice, but the more timid Keitaro from Love Hina manages to use the same word in a way that sounds almost modest.

俺様 (おれさま) Ore-sama 3y

This is the first-person pronoun to use for sounding extremely arrogant and full of yourself. 俺 (ore) by itself is fairly boastful to begin with, but adding the highly respectful name suffix 様 (-sama) takes it to new levels. Using honorifics when referring to yourself is simply not done in Japanese, so using an especially strong one, except in jest, is a big no-no. I think I've heard a few fictional egotistical bandits use this... usually right before the good guys come along and beat some humility into them.

愚生 (ぐせい) Gusei H?

Literally translating to "foolish life", it's a humble way to refer to oneself. I can't recall ever having personally seen or heard this outside of dictionaries, and it's supposed to be used more often when writing a letter than anywhere else.

こちとら (此方人等) Kochitora ??

I've never seen it outside of dictionaries, but this one is supposed to be another of those quirky outdated first-person pronouns relegated to the realm of humorous slang in modern times. Despite the inclusion of a 等 (ra), which normally denotes multiple people, the word is sometimes used to refer to a single person.

この (此の) Kono nz

Just "this" or "these" more often than not, but it translates more cleanly as "my" or "our" in some cases, particularly in phrases like この手で (kono te de, by my hand) or somewhat pretentious self-namings like この殺生丸 (kono Sesshoumaru, I, Sesshoumaru).

自分 (じぶん) Jibun nz

Self. Myself, yourself, ourselves, themselves, himself, herself, oneself... use context to figure out which one applies. Some characters may use this as their standard first-person pronoun, but it rarely happens.

自己 (じこ) Jiko nz

Self. Normally used as part of longer terms, such as 自己紹介 (jikoshoukai, self-introduction).

小職 (しょうしょく) Shoushoku Hz

A first-person pronoun used mainly by humble government servants. At least, that's what the Internet tells me. Literally "minor job".

小生 (しょうせい) Shousei Hy

A relatively uncommon self-deprecating way for a man to refer to himself. The only place I can recall having seen it is once in Cross†Channel when Taichi is in one of his (frequent) weird moods. Literally "minor life".

小弟 (しょうてい) Shoutei Hy

Literally translating to "minor younger brother", this serves as a humble way for a male to refer to himself when speaking to his elders. I can't recall ever having personally seen or heard it outside of dictionaries.

せっしゃ (拙者) Sessha Hy

An outdated self-humbling first-person pronoun, once used mainly by young men, often samurai. The kanji literally mean "bungling one". Cyan from Final Fantasy VI uses せっしゃ, along with other odd mannerisms in speaking.

当方 (とうほう) Touhou Hz

"We" in a formal corporate sort of sense. Not to be confused with 東方 (touhou), which refers to the eastern direction, and also comes up as the name of a series of challenging "bullet hell" shoot 'em up games and their many, many, many fan-made spinoffs.

不肖 (ふしょう) Fushou H?

Roughly equating to "your unworthy servant", it's a humble way to refer to oneself. I think I've seen this one once or twice, but it's uncommon when not grovelling.

僕 (ぼく) Boku 3y

A fairly common male (usually) first-person pronoun. A more humble or boyish term than 俺 (ore), it doesn't seem to be quite as common, at least in fiction. Some women may use this and other masculine pronouns depending on their personalities, and 僕 actually seems to be fairly popular among tomboys (the Internet has apparently dubbed this type the ボクっ娘 (BOKUkko)). The kanji also means "servant", and may be used with that meaning, but normally with the reading しもべ (shimobe) in that case. People who use 僕 for "I" are likely to use 君 (kimi) for "you". Shinji from Evangelion uses 僕, and Ayu Tsukimiya from Kanon is known for it (among other things).

余 or 予 (よ) Yo ??

Another outdated first-person pronoun. Goo's dictionary describes it as rather haughty or ceremonial, and used by young men. I can't remember which characters I've heard using it, but I'm pretty sure most or all were female... either way, it's no longer in common use.

わい (私) Wai ?z

One of many dialectic variants of わたし (watashi). I can't recall any specific characters who use it, but it's out there.

我が (わが) Waga ??

"My" or "our". Rather archaic, and unusual in that it has the possessive sense built-in, thanks to an outdated usage of the が (ga) particle.

吾輩 (わがはい) Wagahai 3?

A pompous first-person pronoun. This one is of interest mostly because it appears in the title of a classic Japanese novel, 吾輩は猫である (Wagahai wa Neko de aru). The English rendition, "I Am a Cat", though technically accurate, completely loses the air of arrogance that the original title conveys, and that cats are so well known for.

わし (私 or 儂) Washi ?z

A first-person pronoun sometimes used by older people, or ancient entities, especially in fiction. It seems to carry the implication that the speaker is wise and knowledgeable, or at least ancient and powerful, and should be heeded. The word is likely a shortening of わたし (watashi). Genma from Ranma 1/2 and Kaede from Inuyasha both use わし, as do all sorts of (often self-styled) god-like beings.

私 (わたくし) Watakushi Hz

The standard highly formal first-person pronoun. More humble than normal conversation calls for, and normally reserved for speaking to respected people, it works well during a job interview, when speaking to an important personage, and so on. Kodachi from Ranma 1/2 and Mint from Galaxy Angel use わたくし consistently, since this is also supposed to be the proper personal pronoun for cultured young women.

私 (わたし) Watashi 2z

The first-person pronoun that's in all the textbooks, appropriate for talking to people that you don't know too well, or who are somewhat higher socially. Most people would use 私 when speaking to teachers, police, relative strangers, and so on. The kanji also means "private", and appears in numerous compunds, such as 私学 (shigaku, private school).

私 (わたし) Watashi 3x

It's often used by females even in casual speech despite normally being more formal, though you'll probably never catch a man using it in such a situation. あたし (atashi) seems to be used at least as commonly, especially by younger women, at least in fiction.

わたち Watachi ??

One little girl in Chrono Trigger uses this, but it probably just means she's missing her front teeth. I've seen it elsewhere as well, and the intention seems to be cutesy.

わっし (私) Wasshi ?z

Listed in Goo's dictionary as a variant of わっち (watchi), below.

わっち (私) Watchi ?z

Thank MegaTokyo for this one. One of Fred's rants mentions an anime series called 狼と香辛料 (Ookami to Koushinryou), literally "Wolf and Spice". One main character, Holo (ホロ), is a "wolf harvest deity" who appears as a fifteen-year-old girl with wolf ears and tail. Anyhow, she has a rather unusual manner of speech, and (from a quick glance at the show's website) this is how she refers to herself. Goo's dictionary lists it as a first-person pronoun that both men and women of low social standing use. Wikipedia suggests that her speech is modelled after high-class courtesans.

わらわ (妾) Warawa Hx

A self-deprecating feminine first-person pronoun rarely used outside of fiction. The kanji literally means "concubine". Queen Zeal in Chrono Trigger is one of a relatively few characters to refer to herself this way.

我 (われ) Ware ??

Yet another first-person pronoun. 我 shows up fairly often in fiction in ancient texts and magical incantations. The only character I can remember offhand who uses it regularly is Gades in Estpolis Denki II (Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals), but it's fairly popular among the ancient entity demographic. From what little Chinese I know, this kanji is the usual character for "I" in that language.

我々 (われわれ) Wareware ??

A way of saying "we". Unlike the related 我 (ware), it remains in use in normal Japanese. I'm not sure what the distinction is between it and the other ways of saying "we", though it seems to have something of a stuffier tone.

Back to top

Pronouns for Other People

[Social/Job Position] 1~2z

A very common way of addressing people in Japanese. Sample titles include 先生 (sensei) for teachers and doctors, 部長 (buchou) for departmental managers or club presidents, 課長 (kachou) for sectional managers, 社長 (shachou) for company presidents, and so on.

Family roles also function as titles in this sense. These include お母さん (o-kaa-san) for mother, お父さん (o-tou-san) for father, お姉さん (o-nee-san) for older sister, and お兄さん (o-nii-san) for older brother. The respectful お (o) prefix is optional in all cases, and the さん (san) suffix can be replaced with other name suffixes—most often ちゃん (chan) for intimacy, 様 (sama) for respect, or occasionally ちゃま (chama) for both—but is not usually dropped entirely. Also note that these are normally used when either addressing these people directly or when speaking of someone else's relatives. When speaking to someone else about your own relatives, humbler terms such as 母 (haha), 父 (chichi), 姉 (ane), and 兄 (ani) are standard.

お姉さん and お兄さん can also be used to refer to young (but older than oneself) non-relatives, along with おばさん (oba-san) and おじさん (oji-san)—aunt and uncle—for adults of roughly middle age, and おばあさん (o-baa-san) and おじいさん (o-jii-san)—grandmother and grandfather—for more elderly people. Be careful when using these. Though Japanese culture does tend to revere the elderly in theory, people can be touchy about their age, and if nothing else, middle-aged women trying to insist on being called お姉さん while everyone keeps using おばさん makes for a fairly common running gag in fiction.

Other related terms include 奥さん (oku-san) for another person's wife, ご主人 (go-shujin) for another person's husband, お子さん (o-ko-san) for another person's child, and お嬢さん (o-jou-san) for a young lady. When speaking to someone else, one's own wife is frequently 妻 (tsuma), and one's own husband 夫 (otto).

Fiction often has titles rarely seen anywhere else in modern times. For instance, 王様 (ou-sama) and 国王 (kokuou) refer to kings, 皇帝 (koutei) to an emperor, and お姫様 (o-hime-sama) to a princess or other young woman of the nobility. Both 王妃 (ouhi) and 女王 (joou) translate to "queen", but the first refers to a king's wife while the second refers to a queen who actually runs the government. A 将軍 (shougun) is roughly equivalent to a general, and the term 陛下 (heika) equates to "Your Majesty".

It's not uncommon to tack rank onto family name, especially for teachers, such as 田中先生 (Tanaka-sensei). However, the title alone suffices, unless it's unclear otherwise who is being referred to.

[Family Name] ?z

How respectful this is depends largely the name suffix used with it. Regardless, family name, with an appropriate respectful suffix, is one of the most common ways of addressing someone in Japanese. It's also not uncommon to combine a family name with a title, such as 田中先生 (Tanaka-sensei).

[Given Name (other's)] 3z

Given names should generally be used only when speaking to people you know well, or to children. As such, if a person gives someone—particularly someone of the opposite gender—permission to call that person by his or her given name, it's a fairly Big Deal. Even when using someone's given name, it's not uncommon to attach a respectful suffix to the name. Using just the name (or worse, adding ~ちゃん (-chan) or another diminuitive suffix) should be avoided except when addressing someone such as a close friend or younger family member, or when taunting enemies. Presuming to have that sort of familarity can be extremely rude.

あいつ (彼奴) Aitsu 4z

A rather rude way to say "he" or "she" (sometimes also applied to objects, especially complicated ones), typically reserved for when the speaker is annoyed with the person in question.

あなた (貴方) Anata 2z

The textbook way to say "you", yet fairly uncommon in spoken Japanese. People are usually addressed by name or title, especially higher-ups, and it's not unusual for the subject of a sentence to be left implied. あなた is most often used either in a generic sense, such as in general messages or instructions (like "write your name in this box"), or in more relaxed speech. The kanji is rarely used, but I have seen it several times, as well as the alternate kanji 彼方. Another uncommon alternate, 貴女, applies only when the "you" in question is female (the male equivalent, 貴男, apparently also exists, but I can't recall ever having encountered it).

あなた (貴方) Anata 3x

Sometimes used, usually by females, in casual speech. It also can be used like "darling" to a husband or boyfriend, though I've been told this usage is relatively uncommon in real life.

あなたがた (貴方々) Anatagata rz

A respectful way to address a group of people. The kanji literally mean "esteemed persons".

あんた Anta 3z

An informal way of saying "you", presumably derived from あなた (anata). This is a common way for women (at least in fiction) to say "you" in casual speech, when speaking to friends or lower-downs, anyway. It's also used by some males, though most prefer 君 (kimi) or お前 (omae), which seem to be somewhat less polite, or at least more assertive. Many female characters use あんた, as do some males, including Bear from .hack//SIGN.

うぬ (汝 or 己) Unu 4z

An archaic "you" pronoun. The only place I've heard this one so far is in Atelier Iris: Grand Phantasm (which, like every other game that allows it, I prefer to play with the Japanese voices). Going by context (ancient impersonal entity speaking to a mere human) and what information I've been able to find online, it is, if not exactly insulting, at least patronizing.

お宅 (おたく) Otaku 2z

Probably the closest thing Japanese has to a respectful but generic "you". It's more polite than using あなた (anata), but is generally only used when the speaker doesn't know of any better way to address someone. And yes, it's turned into something similar to "geek" as well since the 1980s or so, apparently due to its use among groups of fans even when they knew each other well.

おぬし (お主) Onushi ?z

An archaic way of saying "you". The kanji literally mean "honored master". It was used by both men and women, and generally to someone of approximately equal standing. Kaede from Inuyasha and Cayenne (Cyan) from Final Fantasy VI both use おぬし.

おのれ (己) Onore 4?

An insulting way of saying "you", but rarely used outside of fiction. Choosing this word rather than other insults may be a way of making a villain sound ancient. The kanji literally means "snake", but that meaning seems to have essentially died out, with the current meaning being closer to "oneself" (for "snake" in modern Japanese, use 蛇 (hebi)).

お前 (おまえ) Omae 3y

A fairly common masculine way to say "you". Though more assertive than 君 (kimi), it's also less in-your-face macho than おめー (omee). The 前 kanji literally means "in front", so with お as an honorific, it seems, literally, to be a reference to the person in front of the speaker. Some women may use this and other masculine pronouns to sound tough. People who use お前 for "you" are likely to use 俺 (ore) for "I". Many male characters, even those who aren't completely full of themselves, use お前, including Keitaro from Love Hina.

お前さん (おまえさん) Omae-san 3y

Much like お前 (omae), but both more respectful and rather outdated. The only character I can recall using it is Hash (Gaspar) in Chrono Trigger. Note that when used in the plural, 達 (-tachi) comes after さん (-san)

おめー Omee 3y

A slurring of お前 (omae), and also written a variety of other ways including おめえ and おめェ. It's the macho way for a guy to say "you". Some women may use this and other masculine pronouns if they're trying (perhaps a bit too hard?) to sound tough. Many male characters who are full of themselves use おめー, including Ranma and Inuyasha, title characters of their respective series.

彼女 (かのじょ) Kanojo 3z

A comparitively recent pronoun that equates to "she" or "her". It can also mean "girlfriend", so keep the context in mind.

彼 (かれ) Kare 3z

A pronoun equating to "he" or "him". It can also mean "boyfriend", so make sure of the context to avoid confusion. Note that 彼氏 (kareshi) expresses "boyfriend" unambiguously.

貴様 (きさま) Kisama 4z

A very rude way of saying "you". Normally reserved for addressing people you hate with a passion, it's therefore a fairly common term in fiction. Oddly, the first kanji means "valued" or "honored", and the second is a respectful suffix... maybe sarcasm is involved. 貴様 was, I think, originally used by (military, etc.) commanding officers speaking to subordinates, and is occasionally still used (at least in fiction) in that sense without the oozing hatred. I can't comment on usage in real life, though.

貴殿 (きでん) Kiden ??

An uncommon second-person pronoun I've come across once. The goo dictionary indicates its primary usage as being in letter writing, and by men addressing men of comparable or higher standing. Between that, the context where I encountered it, and the kanji (roughly "esteemed sir") it would seem to be fairly polite.

君 (きみ) Kimi 3y

A fairly common, usually masculine, way of saying "you". Though not as disrespectful as お前 (omae), it should still never be used to address higher-ups. Those who use 君 for "you" are likely to use 僕 (boku) for "I". Females may also use 君, especially when speaking to children, subordinates, or other people who are (at least perceived as) lower socially. A female using 君 seems to suggest a take-charge attitude. As two examples, Shinji from Evangelion and The Girl from Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana) use 君.

こいつ (此奴) Koitsu 4z

Like あいつ (aitsu), when the offender is close at hand. Somewhat similar to "Why you little...!"

自分 (じぶん) Jibun nz

Self. Myself, yourself, ourselves, themselves, himself, herself, oneself... Use context to figure out which one applies. Some characters will use this as their standard first-person pronoun, but that's rather uncommon.

自己 (じこ) Jiko nz

Self. Normally used as part of longer terms, such as 自己紹介 (jikoshoukai, self-introduction).

そいつ (其奴) Soitsu 4z

Much like あいつ (aitsu), but seems to be less common.

そなた (其方) Sonata ??

An old term for "you". It was slightly honorific around the 1300~1500s, but gradually shifted to being used only for people of lesser standing since then. Fictional kings will often address people this way. It relates to あなた (anata) in the same way that terms like この (kono), その (sono), あの (ano), and どの (dono) relate to each other. On that note, I don't believe I've ever seen or heard こなた (konata) used, though it does technically exist.

その (其の) Sono nz

Just "that" or "those" more often than not, but it translates more cleanly as "your" in some cases.

てめー Temee 4y

Derived from 手前 (temae), and also written てめぇ and てめェ. It's frequently shouted in fiction when someone with a macho attitude gets mad. More useful when looking to pick a fight than for anything else. Many male characters use it, including Ranma from Ranma 1/2. Interestingly, the nonslurred version, 手前 (temae), is rarely if ever used this way.

汝 (なんじ) Nanji 1~2?

An archaic and respectful way to say "you". Even in fiction, 汝 rarely appears outside of ceremonial language, such as magical incantations, like Lina Inverse's favorite spell in Slayers... …我と汝が力もて、等しく滅びを与えんことを!

僕 (ぼく) Boku 3y

Though normally a somewhat humble masculine first-person pronoun, 僕 may also be used as a second-person pronoun, typically when addressing young boys. This can work as either an endearment or an insult, depending on the situation.

やつ (奴) Yatsu 4z

A rather rude way to say "he" or "she" (or occasionally "you"). I don't think it's quite as rude as "bastard", but it has a mildly derogatory connotation. Maybe something like British "bloke"? In manga and video games, it's frequently written in hiragana (ヤツ), probably to suggest the disdainful tone of voice the speaker is using.

Back to top