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I have seen and heard all these words being used before all to mean wife, but what is the differences between them?

I know some, such as 家内, can only be used for your own wife, but which are which?

Additionally, I have heard there is a similar situation with words for husband, such as 主人、夫、旦那 and more. Could you explain those as well?

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Missing 細君 as a word for wife – virmaior Mar 8 '14 at 8:31
細君 is a little bit classical word, often seen in old Japanese novels. – noel_lapin Mar 8 '14 at 14:05
宿六 yado roku is another little bit classical word for a husband. 宿六 is funny and disrespectful, 細君 is decent. – noel_lapin Mar 8 '14 at 14:21
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Husband can use all of these like 私の家内, 私の嫁, うちの嫁, 私の妻, うちの奥さん, かみさん, うちのかみさん. In these words, かみさん is friendly and colloquial. Other persons cannot use 家内, 嫁, 妻, because it's not polite. Others can say あなたの奥さん, おたくの奥さん, おかみさん.

Wife says 私の主人, うちの主人, 私の夫, うちの旦那. In these words, 旦那 indicates the wife is not respectful of her husband. If others use 夫, it's not polite. Others say ご主人, あなたのご主人, おたくのご主人, あなたの旦那さま.

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Then what is the difference between 家内, 嫁 and 妻? – 小太郎 Mar 8 '14 at 8:50
家内/主人 is a polite humble word. 嫁/旦那 is an item which is taken into the family clan, so it has a shade of oldie heritage. 妻/夫 is a legal neutral word. – noel_lapin Mar 8 '14 at 9:16
The maid would say 奥さま, ご主人さま. – noel_lapin Mar 8 '14 at 9:17
I think you can add 主婦<->主人 and うちの人 as how a wife might refer to her husband to a 3P. My dictionary give 「うちの人が、よろしくと言っておりました」 – Tim Mar 9 '14 at 2:01
I also quite often hear and use 旦那さん. I would not have thought it disrespectful and do not think I misuse it(?) – Tim Mar 9 '14 at 2:05

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