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Japanese Honorifics
-san This is the most common honorific, and is equivalent to Mr., Miss, Ms., Mrs., etc. It is the all-purpose honorific and can be used in any situation where politeness is required.
-sama This is one level higher than "-san." It is used to confer great respect.
-dono This comes from the word tono which means "lord." It is an even higher level than sama, and confers utmost respect.
-kun This suffix is used at the end of boy's names to express familiarity or endearment. It is also sometimes used by men among friends, or when addressing someone younger or of a lower station.
-chan This is used to express endearment, mostly toward girls. It is also used for little boys, pets, and even among lovers. It gives a sense of childish cuteness.
Bozu This is an informal way to refer to a boy, similar to the english term "kid" or "squirt."
Sempai This title suggests that the addressee is one's "senior" in a group or organization. It is most often used in a school setting, where underclassmen refer to their upperclassmen as sempai. It can also be used in the workplace, such as when a newer employee addresses an employee who has seniority in the company.
Kohai This is the opposite of sempai, and is used towards underclassmen in school or newcomers in the workplace. It connotes that the addressee is of a lower station.
Sensai Literally meaning "one who has come before," this title is used for teachers, doctors, or masters of any profession or art.
-[blank] Usually forgotten in these lists, but perhaps the most significant difference between Japanese and English. The lack of honorific means that the speaker has permission to address the person in a very intimate way. Usually, only family, spouses, or very close friends have this kind of permission. Known as yobisute, it can be gratifying when someone who has earned this intimacy starts to call one by one's name without an honorific. But when that intimacy hasn't been earned, it can also be very insulting.

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http://www.tasigh.org/ninja/misc.html -- Revised: 26 September 2004
Copyright © 2004 Kevin A. Geiselman