Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I was recently flipping through a copy of the [新宿]{しんじゅく}スワン manga and seem to recall a senior figure talking to a junior character, referring to them multiple times as 「てまえ」.

It caught my attention as unless I misread it, it was not 「おまえ」, which I could have understood.

Is this a way to refer to another (junior) person?

share|improve this question
See 大辞林, sense 2-[2]. – snailplane Jun 22 '13 at 11:00
up vote 5 down vote accepted

てまえ (手前) literally in front of my/your hands. Besides having several meanings as a noun, it can be used as first person pronoun or as second person pronoun. (See dictionary entry, under 2 [代].)

てまえ (as a pronoun) is also pronounced (and written) as てめえ.

Although historically being used for people of higher rank, てまえ/てめえ is now colloquial language for addressing someone of equal or lower rank and, in your situation, a synonym for おまえ (or おれ, when used as first person pronoun).

share|improve this answer
In a decade in Japan (Kansai), I have never heard this used anywhere outside of TV dramas or movies. I strongly recommend not using it in day-to-day speech. The pronoun for "you" (in any form) is used very infrequently in favor of referring to people by their names (surnames or nicknames, depending on context) or omitted if it can be understood in context without an explicit subject. – jmac Jun 24 '13 at 7:26

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.