Japanese Language Wiki

The Japanese language is unusual among major languages in the high degree to which the speech of women seen collectively differs from that of men. Differences in the ways that girls and boys use language have been detected in children as young as three years old.

Such differences are sometimes called "gendered language." In Japanese, speech patterns peculiar to women are sometimes referred to as onna kotoba (女言葉, "women's words") or joseigo (女性語, "women's language"). The use of "gender" here refers to gender roles, not grammatical gender. A man using feminine speech might be considered effeminate or homosexual, but his utterances would not be considered grammatically incorrect. In general, the words and speech patterns considered masculine are also seen as rough, vulgar, or abrupt, while the feminine words and patterns make a sentence more polite, more deferential, or "softer" (countering abruptness).

There are no gender differences in written Japanese (except in quoted speech), and almost no differences in polite speech, except for occasional use of wa (and except for the fact that women may be more likely to use polite speech in the first place).

Major differences in the use of Japanese[]

Female speakers Male speakers
Use polite forms more often Use polite forms less often
Use more tag questions Use fewer tag questions
Avoid dropping respectful titles Drop respectful titles more quickly
Use intrinsically feminine words and phrases Use intrinsically masculine words and phrases
Use forms intended to soften speech Use abrupt, rough-sounding forms more often

Words for "I" or "me"[]

Male or female
私, わたし watashi polite, used by both men and women. In the Edo period, used to be used more frequently by women, but currently it is neutral.
私, わたくし watakushi polite, used by both men and women; more formal than watashi.
自分, じぶん jibun used by both men and women. However, in the Kansai dialect, jibun refers to "you".
うち uchi used by both men and women in some circumstances, especially when speaking of home and/or family, and also by young girls
One's own name used almost exclusively by women. Greater frequency of usage connotes femininity. For men, the usage is limited to extremely feminine men and elderly male people.
あたし atashi young girls, women, men expressing femininity; soft, feminine
あたくし atakushi formal form of atashi; women, mostly in formal situations
あたい atai more recently characteristic of the Tokyo "downtown" dialect; distinctly rough
僕, ぼく boku boys and young men, fairly casual; recently used by some girls. In songs, used by both sexes.
俺, おれ ore informal form for men and boys, women NOT being feminine/polite; distinctly masculine, sometimes vulgar
儂, わし washi old men
我輩, 吾輩 wagahai archaic, somewhat boastful masculine
俺様, おれさま ore-sama pompous, vulgar; boys, men, a combination of ore and the honourific title "sama"
我, 吾 ware men, may sound old.

Words for "you"[]

Male and female
君, きみ kimi men to close friends, lovers; superiors (including women) to inferiors. In songs, used by both sexes.
貴方, あなた anata standard polite form when used by men, usual form used by women; (when used to address a husband or male partner): equivalent to "dear"
そちら sochira informal yet relatively neutral form for 'you', used among peers of similar age usually. Less insulting than anta (see below)
あんた anta informal contraction of standard anata; potentially insulting
手前 temae archaic, extremely hostile in its corrupted form temee (てめえ); men
こいつ koitsu directive pronoun, as in "this guy"; rather hostile
nanji, nare archaic, generally only used in translations of ancient documents to replace "thou"
お前, おまえ omae direct, abrupt; sometimes hostile; (when used to address a wife or female partner): equivalent to "dear"
貴様 kisama formerly an extremely honorific form of address; in modern speech is as insulting as, but more refined than, "temee"
あなた anata (when used to address a husband or male partner): equivalent to "dear"

Sentence finals[]

wa gives a distinctly soft effect; not to be confused with wa in the Kansai dialect
わよ wa yo informative
わね wa ne ne is a tag question roughly meaning "don't you agree?" It is sometimes placed at the beginning, rather than the end of sentences and functions to soften
no gives a distinctly soft effect;
のよ no yo informative/assertive
のね no ne explanatory/tag question
かしら kashira I wonder
かい kai masculine form of the question marker ka
zo emphatic/informative
ze emphatic/informative
yo emphatic/informative; also used by women, but women often soften by adding wa
かなぁ kanaa I wonder