Family related lesson Part 2


= Nee maggie obachan!

= Hey, Auntie Maggie!


= Obachan tte yobanai deyo!

= Don’t call me Auntie!

Hi everyone!

In my previous lesson we learned family-related Japanese (parents + children). But we’re not done yet! There is much more to learn.

Are you ready? OK! Today we’ll start with,

Siblings (brothers and sisters): 兄弟姉妹 (= kyoudai shimai)

兄弟 = kyoudai = brother(s)

(Kyoudai literally means “brothers” but a lot of time it is used to say “brothers and sisters” as well.)

Ex. 何人兄弟ですか?(or 兄弟は何人いますか?)

= Nannin kyoudai desuka? (or Kyoudai wa nannin imasuka?)

= How many brothers (or sisters) do you have?

= Kyoudai genka suru.
= to fight between brothers. (or sisters)

Ex. 兄弟が欲しい。

= Kyoudai ga hoshii.

= I want a brother or sister.

姉妹 = shimai = sister(s)

Ex. 四人姉妹 = yonin shimai = four sisters

Ex. 仲良し姉妹 = nakayoshi shimai = close sisters

★When you talk about your family with other people, you refer to them as,

• = ani = older brother

•  = ane = older sister

•  =otouto = younger brother

•  = imouto = younger sister

Ex. 私の兄は今、東京に住んでいます。

= Watashi no ani wa ima Tokyo ni sunde imasu.

= My older brother lives in Tokyo now.

Note : Although you are close to that person, you don’t address their older brothers or older sisters ( = ani), ( = ane ).


= Anata no ani wa dokoni sunde imasu ka?

= Where does your older brother live?

But if you are close to that person (usually the same age or older) you may address their younger brother or younger sister as = otouto or = imouto

Ex. お前の妹かわいいな。(male talk : rough)

= Omae no imouto kawaiina.

= Your younger sister is cute, isn’t she?

Ex. 昨日、マギーの妹を見かけたよ。

= Kinou Maggie no imouto wo mikaketayo.

= (talking to Maggie) I saw your sister yesterday.

★ Usually you address other people’s siblings:

お兄さん = oniisan = older brother

:rrrr: (more polite) お兄様 = oniisama  (formal)

お姉さん = oneesan = older sister

:rrrr: (more polite) • お姉様 = oneesama  (formal)

弟さん = otouto san = younger brother

妹さん = imouto san = younger sister

★How you address your own siblings or siblings of someone close to you:

You can address your own older siblings

お姉さん = oneesan =older sister or お兄さん = oniisan

You can also call them

• 姉さん = neesan  = older sister

• 兄さん = niisan = older brother

More casual

お姉ちゃん = oneechan  = older sister, Sis.

お兄ちゃん = oniichan = older brother, Bro.


姉ちゃん = neechan = older sister, Sis.



兄ちゃん = niichan = older brother, Bro.

Ex. お姉ちゃん、これ何?

= Oneechan kore nani?

= What’s this, Sis? (Talking to your older sister.)

Much more casual


• 姉貴= aneki = older sister, Sis

• 兄貴= aniki = older brother, Bro


Note 1  :

In western countries, it is very common to call your brothers and sisters by their first name. But in Japan, it is more common to call your older brothers and sisters (お)兄さん ( = (o)niisan)、(お)兄ちゃん ( = (o)niichan)、(お)姉さん ( = (o)neesan)、(お)姉ちゃん ( = oneechan) and call your younger brothers and sisters by their first name. Parents, too, refer to the eldest son in the family as お兄ちゃん ( = oniichan) and the oldest sister with お姉ちゃん ( = oneechan) when they talk with their younger sons or daughters.

Ex. (When taking to their younger son. )


= Kouichi,  sore wa oniichan no dakara tabecha dame!

= Koichi! That’s your older brother’s so don’t eat it!

Note 2 :

Although these words are usually used only in a family setting, it is not unheard for some people to refer to young girls and boys that they do not actually know as お兄さん  ( =  oniisan) 、お姉さん ( = oneesan) 、お兄ちゃん ( =  oniichan) 、お姉ちゃん ( = oneechan) 

Ex. (When talking to your child)


= Kippu wo Soko no oneesan ni watashi nasai.

= Give the ticket to the young lady there.

Ex. (When talking to a young male sales clerk at a store )


= Oniisan sore ikura?

= How much is it, son?


• 二人兄弟 = futari kyoudai = two brothers

• 兄弟が多い = kyoudai ga ooi = to have many brothers

• 双子 = futago = twins

• 双子のお兄さん = futago no oniisan = twin elder brother



★When you refer your in-laws, you say,

:rrrr:義理の = “giri no” means “in-laws”

義理の父 = giri no chichi = father-in-law



:rrrr: Note, you would read these same words as お義父さん= “otousan” when addressing him directly.


= shuuto = father-in-law

:rrrr: when you refer to others’ fathers-in-law, お舅さん = oshuuto san

義理の母 = giri no haha = mother-in-law

:rrrr: Note, you would read these same words as  お義母さん= “okaasan” when addressing her directly.


姑  = shuuto /shuutome= mother-in-law

:rrrr:  When you refer to others’ mothers-in-law お姑さん   ( = oshuuto san / oshuutome san) 

義理の妹 = giri no imouto = younger sister-in-law

:rrrr:  Usually you call her with her first name with さん ( = san) or ちゃん ( = chan) , (ちゃん ( = chan) is more childish but friendly)

義理の姉 = giri no ane = older sister-in-law

:rrrr: You call her お義姉さん= oneesan

Note :

小舅  ( = kojuuto) = brother-in-law & 小姑   ( = kojuuto(me) ) = sister-in-law

Sometimes we use 小姑  ( =  kojuuto(me) ) = sister-in-law negatively.

So you should avoid saying that in front of your sister-in-law.

The literal meaning is “little mother-in-law” and it implies a type of sister-in-law who nitpicks and has an annoying personality — tending to butt into your personal affairs. Sometimes they still live with their parents.

Ex. 小姑みたいなまねやめて!

= Kojuuto mitaina mane yamete!

= Don’t be like “little mother-in-law”→Don’t nitpick!

• 義理の兄 = giri no ani = older brother-in-law

:rrrr: You call him  お義兄さん= oniisan

• 義理の弟 = giri no otouto = younger brother-in-law

:rrrr: Usually you call him by his first name with さん= san or = kun  (= kun is more friendly)


★How you refer to your daughter/son-in-law:

= yome =daughter-in-law

:rrrr:more friendly お嫁さん = oyomesan

Ex. うちの嫁 = uchi no yome = our daughter-in-law

Ex. うちのお嫁さん= uchi no oyomesan = our daughter-in-law (sounds warmer than the former one.)

:rrrr: You call her by her first name + さん(=san)

• 婿 = muko = son-in-law

:rrrr: more friendly お婿さん = omuko san

:rrrr: You call him with his first name and asdd さん(=san)



Cultural Note : Who is going to take care of old parents in Japan :

Traditionally 長男 = chounan = a first-born son is responsible for taking care of his parents.
So if you marry a first-born son,  you are expected to eventually live with his parents and help take care of them.

So お嫁さん = oyomesan = daughter-in-law’s burden is immense because she also has to take care of her parents if she doesn’t have any brothers or sisters. And it is becoming a serious social problem.

It is very common to have conflicts between 嫁 = yome = daughter-in-law VS = shuutome = mother-in-law when they live in the same house (同居 = doukyo = living together).  There are a lot of TV dramas based on this antagonistic relationship.

(Ex. 渡る世間は鬼ばかり= Wataru seken wa oni bakari)


 husband and wife

夫婦 = fuufu = married couple

★When you refer to your own husband or wife formally, we say

= otto = husband

= tsuma = wife

Ex. 夫は今、休職中です。

= Otto wa ima kyuushoku chuu desu.

= My husband is between jobs.


主人 = shujin = husband (The original mean is “a master”)

Ex. 主人に聞いてみます。

= Shujin ni kiite mimasu

= I will ask my husband.

亭主 = teishu

Ex. うちの亭主 = uchi no teishu = my husband (old fashioned. sounds a bit rough)

Ex. 亭主関白 = teishu kanpaku = chauvinistic / domineering husband

旦那 = danna

Ex. うちの旦那 = uchi no dannna = my husband (sounds a bit rough)

Also say,

:rrrr:うちの人 = uchi no hito = my husband

When you refer to your wife when speaking with other people.

• 家内 = kanai = my wife

Ex. 家内が、よろしく言っていました。

= Kanai ga yoroshiku itte imashita.

= My wife says hello to you.

うちのやつ = uchi no yatsu = my wife (humble)

ワイフ = waifu = my wife (It’s katakana but even the older generation tends to use this)

(僕の)奥さん = (boku no) okusan = my wife (Technically you shouldn’t useさん= san for your own family but this is a pretty common way to refer to their own wife)

女房 = nyoubou (old fashion)

Ex. 女房のやつ、今日は何もご飯を作ってくれなかった。(rough)

= Nyoubou no yatsu kyou wa nani mo gohan wo tsukutte kurenakatta.

= My wife didn’t cook for me at all.

★When you refer to other people’s husbands

御主人 = goshujin = someone’s husband (honorific)

more polite

:rrrr:御主人様 = goshujin sama (formal)

Ex. もしもし、御主人様はいらっしゃいますか? (on telephone)

=  Moshi moshi goshujin sama wa irasshaimasu ka?

= Hello, may I speak to your husband?

:rrrr:旦那様 = dannasama = your husband

Ex. いいわねえ、今日は旦那様とデート? (female speech)

= IIwanee kyou wa dannasama to deito?

= How envious! Do you have a date with your husband?

When you refer to other people’s wife,

• 奥さん = okusan

more polite

:rrrr: • 奥様 = okusama

Ex. いいですね、毎日、奥様の手料理が食べられて!

= Iidesune mainichi okusama no tesryouri ga taberarete!

= That’s great that you can eat your wife’s home cooking every day!

Note : Because the literal meaning of 家内 = kanai is “inside of the house”, 奥さん is a person who stays in the back of the house, 主人 = shujin = is “master” . These words may sound sexist, but they are still quite common in daily conversation.

 Grandparents :

★When you refer to your own grandparents formally :

• 祖父母 = sofubo = grandparents

• 祖父 = sofu = grandfather

• 祖母 = sobo = grandmother

★How you refer to your own grandparents (or grandparents of someone close to you):

casual and friendly way to call them.


おじいちゃん = ojiichan

おばあちゃん = obaachan

How to refer to other people’s grandparents with respect.

お祖父さん = ojiisan = grandpa

お祖母さん = obaasan = grandma

more polite


お祖父様 = ojiisama = grandfather

お祖母様 = obaasama = grandmother

 great grandparents

★When you refer to your great-grandparents formally.

• 曾祖父母 = sousofubo = great grandparents

• 曾祖父 = sousofu = great grandfather

• 曾祖母 = sousobo = great grandmother

★How you address or refer to your great grandparents of those of someone close to you.


• ひいおばあさん = hiiobaasan = great grandfather

• ひいおじいさん = hiiojiisan = great grandmother

 grandchildren :

★When you refer to your grandchild formally.

•  = mago = grandchild

★When you refer to someone’s grandchild.

お孫さん = omago san

great grandchildren :

★When you refer to your great-grandchild formally.

• ひ孫 = himago= great grandchild

 Other relatives :

親戚 = shinseki = relatives

 uncles and aunts :

★When you refer to your uncles and aunts formally.

• 叔父伯父 = oji = uncle

• 叔母伯母 = oba = aunt

(There are two kanji for ””=   and   : 伯父伯母 are used when you refer to your parents’ older siblings and   叔父 and 叔母 are used when you refer your parents’ younger siblings.)

★How you call your uncles or aunts

叔父さん伯父さん = ojisan = uncle

• 叔母さん伯母さん = obasan = aunt

more friendly (conversational):

• 叔父ちゃん伯父ちゃん = ojichan = uncle

• 叔母ちゃん伯母ちゃん = obachan = aunt

Note : Sometimes we add their first name

Ex.マギー叔母ちゃん = Maggie obachan = Antie Maggie

From the picture above :

You see Maggie Sensei was offended when Iggy (The dog sitting right next to Maggie) called her マギーおばちゃん = Maggie obachan = Auntie Maggie.

「おばちゃんって呼ばないで よ!」

= Obachan tte yobanai deyo!

= Don’t call me Auntie!

You may have heard children address adults おばさん( = obasan) or おばちゃん (= obachan), おじさん( = ojisan) or おじちゃん( = ojichan)  in a friendly manner. This is perfectable acceptable, but a lot of women got offended when they are calledおばさん( = obasan) or おばちゃん (= obachan) by strangers because おばさん= obasan implies they look older. They prefer to be called お姉さん = oneesan or お姉ちゃん = oneechan.

Ex. あのお姉さん、綺麗だね。

= Ano oneesan kirei dane.

= That young lady is beautiful.

Ex. あ〜あ、私、もうおばさんだし..

= Aaah, watashi mou obasan dashi..

= Oh well, I am an old woman now, so…

So be careful when and with whom you use 

お姉さん/ちゃん (= oneesan/chan), お兄さん (= oniisan/chan) are used when you refer young girls or boys.

But in a workplace, it is not appropriate to refer to young girls and boys with these words.

 nephews and nieces :

★ When you refer to your own nephews or niece formally.

= oi = nephew

= mei = niece

more friendly

甥っ子 = oikko = nephew

• 姪っ子 = meikko = niece

Ex. 甥っ子が来るから遊んであげないと…

= Oikko ga kuru kara asonde agenai to…

= Since my nephew is coming over, I have to play with him.

★How to call your own nephews and nieces:

Usually, we call our own nephews and nieces by their first names usually adding ちゃん= chan (for girls and sometimes for boys) or =kun (for boys). Sometimes we just use the first name without ちゃん=chan or =kun or with their nicknames.


 cousins :

従兄弟 = itoko = male cousin

従姉妹 = itoko = female cousin

はとこ = hatoko = second cousin

OK, that’s all for family family-related lesson!


マギー先生より= Maggie Sensei yori = From Maggie Sensei


= Watashi ga hyakusai ni natte mo zettai ni obasan nante yobanai deyo!

= Even if I turn 100 years old, NEVER call me obasan! OK?


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  1. Hi Maggie,

    I hope all is well :)

    I’m reading a new book and the story is talking about a child on a school trip buying お土産 for his parents. He wants to buy 油取り紙 for his mother (written as おかあさん in the book).

    The school trip is cut short and the child hasn’t yet bought 油取り紙, but now the word おばさん (in hiragana) is used.

    I always knew “おばさん” as “aunt”, but can it be used to mean “mum” informally?
    The same occurs for おとうさん. This changes to おじさん in the same section.
    Can おじさん ever be used for “dad”?

    Many thanks as always,

    1. Hello Peter,
      おじさん・おばさん can’t be used for one’s own father/mother. But when children refer to someone’s father/mother, they might call them おじさん・おばさん
      Maybe the speaker has changed in the story?
      For example: おかあさんに、油取り紙を買わなければいけない。 (Talking about the writer’s mother)
      「おばさんに油取り紙を買ったの?」(the writer’s friend asked the writer)

      1. You’re right, the speaker had changed :)

        It was his friend using the terms おじさん and おばさん, so that makes perfect sense.

        Thinking about it, in English sometimes people refer to someone’s dad as “old man” or someone’s mum as “old dear”.

        Thank you very much!

  2. other families
    your family
    addressing yours

    お母様[おかあさま]familiar: お母さん[おかあさん]formal: お母上[おははうえ]
    お母さん[おかあさん]casual: 母さん[かあさん]

    お父様[おとうさま]familiar: お父さん[おとうさん]formal: お父上[おちちうえ]
    お父さん[おとうさん]casual: 父さん[とうさん]

    お子さん[おこさん]polite: お子様[おこさま]

    娘さん[むすめさん]polite: ご令嬢[ごれいじょう]

    息子さん[むすこさん]polite: ご子息[ごしそく]polite: ご令息[ごれいそく]

    older sister
    お姉さん[おねえさん]formal: お姉さま[おねえさま]
    (お)姉さん[おねえさん](お)姉ちゃん[おねえちゃん]very casual: 姉貴[あねき]

    older brother
    お兄さん[おにいさん]formal: お兄様[おにいさま]
    (お)兄さん[おにいさん]お兄ちゃん[おにいちゃん]very casual: 兄貴[あにき]

    younger sister
    妹さん[いもうとさん]familiar: 妹[いもうと]

    younger brother
    弟さん[おとうとさん]familiar: 弟[おとうと]

    奥さん[おくさん]formal: 奥様[おくさま]

    ご主人[ごしゅじん]formal: ご主人様[ごしゅじんさま]

    お祖母さん[おばあさん]formal: お祖母様[おばあさま]
    casual: おばあちゃん

    お祖父さん[おじいさん]formal: お祖父様[おじいさま]
    casual: おじいちゃん






  3. I notice you used the word ‘taberete’ in one of your examples. Would you mind explaining about it coz i was searching and referring to a table of japanese verb conjugations online but to no avail regarding to the ‘rete’ ending. :(

    1. @anna
      It is a very casual speech but I fixed it to avoid the confusion.
      It is 食べられていいですね(taberarete iidesu ne) but in conversation we often skip いいですね
      食べれる is considered to be ら抜き言葉(ranukikotoba, skipping ら in casual converasation) and 食べられる is grammatically correct.
      Although “食べれていい” equally appeared on Google as “食べられていい”, I should have avoid using it in the beginners’ lesson.

      The basic pattern
      →switch the orders

      It is good that you can eat.- I envy you that you can eat.

  4. Woah, this was a quite long family lesson!
    It took me two nights to finish studying it xD
    next stop: ちゃう lesson!

    Thank you very much for your hard work, sensei!!

      1. Yeah, I think the first part took me three nights or so :P . I wouldn’t have ever imagined the subtle details you must be aware of while referring to your own or someone’s family.

        1. @Orti

          Really three nights? Haha I know my lessons tend to be too long. I hope you are an expert of family related words now.

          1. Your lessons are great! It’s like one can feel your dedication in every one of them, it’s very inspiring.
            I couldn’t internalize all the lesson by reading it just once, but soon I’ll surely become an expert of family related words! (笑)

            Thank you very much for creating this site, and for always being there to kindly answer any doubt we have, really.

          2. @Orti

            I am sorry. I just read your comment.
            Welcome to Family Related Lesson Part 2! I hope you come back here again and again until you get familiar with all the words.
            And THANK YOU for always visiting here. It has been a pleasure to answer or read your comments!

  5. Dear Maggie Sensei, thank you for your lesson! I really appreciate it, and it’s very nice learning with all the bouncy arrows, nice pictures and word colours. Makes learning much more fun!

    1. @Jon

      Hi Jon! はじめまして!Thank you for your comment. I am happy to hear you liked the “bouncy arrows” and stuff. Hope you enjoy learning nihongo with me! !happyface!

  6. Hi Ms. Maggie! “彼女はいませんよ~しょぼん”
    why is “imasen” used here? shouldn’t it be “arimasen”? o.o

    P.S. for some reasons, I can’t send a direct message to you in twitter T__T

    1. @roulette225

      Hello!! OK, it’s because we use いる for people and we use ある for things.
      That is why we say 彼女はいません(=I don’t have a girlfriend) instead of 彼女はありません。
      But we don’t say 車はいません. We say 車があります。=We have a car.

  7. いつもありがとう!



    1. @ナミ

      いい質問ですね。「何人家族ですか?」と聞かれたときは、自分を含めて「4人家族です。」と言いますが、兄弟の場合は、例えば「 三人」と、数だけ言うと他に三人いる様に思われる可能性があります。

  8. ahahah okie I won’t ever call u “obasan” Maggie^^ besides shujin and uchi no hito, is there a way to call him “honey” or something when you are talking to him? or not really?
    oh, and yeah I’ve heard some foreigners say how shujin and kanai are sexist… I’ve even heard foreigners say how attaching chan to a girl’s name is sexist!! I was like give it a break people I think it’s cute >< besides, that's how the language is-period! I got no problem with these words at all^^
    thankies Maggie chan~~!

    1. @Aki-chan
      Good question. Maybe I should add that information, huh?
      Unlike other western languages, Japanese don’t have many terms of endearment. Women sometimes jokingly refer to their husband or boyfriend “ハニー” or “ダーリン” when you talk to someone close. Ex. うちのダーリンがね….
      Generally we simply call each other by one’s first name, or あなた (addressing men) 君(addressing women) some rough men old generation address their wife お前.
      I wouldn’t think using ちゃん is sexist but I understand what they mean. If my boss calls my male coworker by his family name, Ex. 山田君 and he call me by Maggieちゃん, it gives us impression that my boss treats us differently. But there is no problem calling each other by chan between friends.

      1. ah so it’s only jokingly, huh?
        sokka sokka naruhodo ne^^
        and this verb 呼ばないで what’s its dictionary form? so it means “to call someone something”?

        1. @Aki

          The dictionary form of 呼ばないで is 呼ぶ
          Right it means “to call someone something”
          Ex. マギーをお姉さんと呼ぶ

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