Ý nghĩa của Onii-chan, Onee-chan – Anh chị em trong tiếng Nhật

Have you ever wondered what onii-chan, onee-chan, onii-san, onee-san, and other variations mean in Japanese? Do you know the meaning of imouto, otouto, kyoudai, and shimai? Have you ever heard of the term Aniki? Do you know how to say big brother and big sister in Japanese?

In a previous article, we discussed Japanese family members. In this article, we will delve deeper to understand the meanings and differences of these words.

Sibling relationships are highly valued in Japan, to the extent that the Japanese cleverly call their younger siblings “onii-chan” (big brother) in anime. Have you noticed how anime exploits this little sister trope? Most of the time, they are lolis, but do you know what loli means? Click here to read our article about loli, lolicon, and lolita.

Big Brother – What Does Onii-chan Mean?

Onii-chan is nothing more than an endearing way to refer to an older brother in Japanese. The character “Onii” [お兄] literally means big brother. When it is followed by “chan,” it becomes an honorific term of endearment, as if it were a young child (little brother).

The more formal and commonly used term is onii-san, which is also heard for older brothers. You can use these terms after the person’s name as an honorific (Kevin-oniichan).

This address is used for any siblings you have, and sometimes it is even used with people you consider siblings, even if they are not blood-related.

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Oniichan or Onii-chan, Which is Correct?

There is no one correct way; the hyphen is simply a Latinization option that we use to separate the words “older brother” from the suffix “chan” or another suffix like “san.” Be careful not to write “onichan” because then you would be referring to demons, monsters, or ogres [鬼].

Big Sister – What Does Onee-chan Mean?

Onee-san is the endearing way to refer to an older sister in Japanese. The characters “Onee” [お姉] literally mean big sister. As mentioned before, the suffix “chan” is an informal term (little sister).

Onee-san is the more formal way to say big sister. Because women are highly respected, men tend to use onee-san more than onee-chan depending on the family context.

Anne, What Does It Mean?

“Ane” [姉] is another way to refer to a big sister, especially when talking about your sister to someone else. Another more formal and archaic way is “senior sister” [姉上].

Different Ways to Address Big Brother in Japanese

In Japanese, there is a hierarchy of honorifics, a formal, common, and informal language. This is one of the main reasons why there are so many variations and ways to address older brothers in Japanese. To make it easier, we will provide you with a list of the following words to illustrate the idea a bit:

(Chart not available in text format. Please visit the original article on for the complete content.)

Imouto and Otouto – Little Sister and Little Brother

To refer to younger siblings, we use the word otouto [弟] for little brothers and imouto [妹] for little sisters.

These words usually do not use a suffix unless referring to members of another family, like your friend’s little sister, then you should use imouto-san.

Unlike the terms onii-san and onee-san, “imouto” and “otouto” are not commonly used to address their own siblings. Japanese people often call their younger siblings by name.

If you search for the word “little sister” in a Japanese dictionary, you will find countless ways to convey the idea of a younger sister, but with a twist.

Various Ways to Address Siblings in Japanese

We have learned the main ways to refer to younger and older siblings. Now let’s look at other Japanese words used to address siblings:

(Chart not available in text format. Please visit the original article on for the complete content.)

Futago – What Do Twins Call Each Other?

If both are twins, what do they call each other? Who decides if it’s younger or older? The Japanese word for twins is “futago” [双子], which literally means children born in pairs or together.

In practice, everyone knows that twins are born at the same time, but they are still considered older or younger based on their birth order, so it can be said:

  • “Futago no ani” [双子の兄] for twin brothers;
  • “Futago no ane” [双子の姉] for twin sisters;
  • “Futago no oniisan” [双子のお兄さん] for twin older brothers;
  • “Futago no oneesan” [双子のお姉さん] for twin older sisters;
  • “Futago no otouto” [双子の弟] for twin younger brothers;
  • “Futago no imouto” [双子の妹] for twin younger sisters;
  • “Tsuin” [ツイン] for the term twin in English.

Remember, never learn Japanese by memorizing individual words. If you are confused about the order or how to learn Japanese correctly, we advise you to read our guide on learning Japanese.

Kyoudai and Shimai – Other Ways to Talk About Siblings

If we want to talk about siblings in plural, we can use the hyphen of the letters for older and younger siblings. Siblings in Japanese are spelled “kyoudai” [兄弟] for brothers and sisters and “shimai” [姉妹] for sisters.

Kyoudai can include all siblings, even female ones, although you rarely find “kyoudai” written differently using two of the four characters used for siblings [兄 – 弟 – 姉 – 妹].

We hope this article has cleared up all your doubts about the words onii-chan, onee-chan, onii-san, onee-san, and other words related to siblings in Japanese, such as imouto, otouto, kyoudai, and shimai! Thank you for the comments and shares!

If you want to know the names of family members, we recommend the video below:

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