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I've heard elderly women in Japan referring to themselves using . This leads me to believe that the usage has changed overtime to become only used by males. Did used to be gender-neutral?

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Ah yes, come to think of it, I often heard elderly women in Tohoku region say 'おれ'! Probably it's regional, because I've never heard any woman say おれ in Kansai. –  user1016 May 29 '12 at 9:16

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

According to WWWJDIC via Rikaichan:

俺 おれ、 だいこう、 ないこう (pn,adj-no,male) I; me (rough or arrogant-sounding first-person pronoun, formerly also used by women); (P)

So it seems that it used to be a gender-neutral noun.

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Small note: this is not Rikaichan's data, but WWWJDIC's (freely used by most Japanese translation software). –  Dave May 29 '12 at 4:05
@Dave - Noted and corrected. –  dotnetN00b May 29 '12 at 4:34
@dotnetN00b: Thanks for the answer. If possible someone should change formerly also used by women to not used by women in modern times except for certain remote areas. –  Jesse Good May 29 '12 at 21:30
@JesseGood - Well you'll have to talk to the people at WWWJDIC for that :) –  dotnetN00b May 29 '12 at 21:33
@dotnetN00b: Fix submitted. –  Jesse Good May 29 '12 at 23:51

Quoting Wikipedia:





おれ, which originally came from おのれ, used to be used as a second-person pronoun (like “you”) before the Kamakura period (1185–1333). However, it gradually became used to refer to oneself and was used by men and women of various backgrounds widely in the Edo period. In the Meiji period, most women stopped using it in the standard dialect, but its usage remained strong in local dialects mainly in the Tohoku region. Also, in the west Mikawa region of Aichi prefecture, it is still used today by some women to refer to oneself in local farming areas.

Generally the [平板型]{へいばんがた} accent is most commonly used. However, in certain regions, an accent is put on the お.

In western Japan, many people refer to themselves as わし when they get older. In Hiroshima especially, the use of おれ is considered to be arrogant and is not used often.

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It's good that you've gone to the effort of finding this info, but unfortunately having it only in Japanese makes it inaccessible to many people on this site. I hope someone will translate it. –  atlantiza May 30 '12 at 22:14
@atlantiza: I added a translation. Please fix any mistakes you find. Thanks. –  Jesse Good May 31 '12 at 0:34

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