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Ammy claims that 殿 is more respectful than 様:

様 -sama: a respectful honorific used for those of a higher social standing

殿 -dono: even more respectful than -sama, less likely to be used solely out of obligation

However, Wikipedia claims otherwise:

殿 when attached to a name, roughly means "lord" or "master". . .

. . . and lies in between san and sama in level of respect.

Who is right?

Does「様」command more respect than「殿」, or is it the other way round?

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After reading both pages, I personally think Wiki is more correct... When we write the addressees' names on, for example, New Year's greeting postcards, we'd rather use 様 for our teachers/bosses, and our teachers/bosses usually use 殿 for their students/subordinates. (This may be only one example where we use 様/殿 in daily life, though) –  Choko Jun 2 '12 at 16:42
@Chocolate Just to confirm, do you mean that the teacher refer to the student using [Name]殿 ? –  Pacerier Jun 2 '12 at 19:32
It seems like the first site is saying that 殿 is more respectful mostly because you don't HAVE to use it, so when you do use it, it seems very respectful because you are putting in extra effort. That's just how I interpreted their explanation though. –  atlantiza Jun 2 '12 at 22:07
@Paceriersan, Our teachers often use 殿 when they write the addressees' names on their letters/postcards when writing to their students (They'd also use 様, though. But students never use 殿 when they write to their teachers). And they don't use 殿 when they talk. Some more occasions where I see 殿 used in daily life are, I see it added to my name on my pay slip, and sometimes on an envelope for drug that I get at a clinic or pharmacy too. –  Choko Jun 3 '12 at 6:55
@Chocolate Thanks for the examples =) –  Pacerier Jun 3 '12 at 13:36

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

様 is more respectful than 殿. The reason Ammy gets it wrong is because 殿 used to be more respectful in the past, but it has changed overtime and 様 has become more respectful. Nowadays, 殿 is used as a fixed expression in some circles. Many companies use it in their e-mails when referring to a coworker, but I would use 様 instead if I were referring to someone in a different company. However, it may still be tradition at some companies to use 殿 all the time, but always use 様 instead if you are not sure.

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I think Jesse's answer is basically right, but I thought it worth offering a slightly different perspective, just for more dimension.

I think Jesse is correct that 殿{どの} used to be more decidedly respectful than it is now. It used to represent a specific place in the social hierarchy. However, it's not so much that 様{さま} has overtaken it, just that 殿 has been regulated to very specific situations. Formal letter writing, certain business interactions, and so on.

So it's not the case that you would meet someone on the street and opt to use 殿 to convey you respected them less than but more than さん.

With that in mind, one could argue that it's not necessarily less respectful than , just different, regulated to being prescribed in specific ritualized situations.

I think 殿 is somewhat archaic, and given that you can, as I mostly have, go years without having to use 殿, I would suspect it might be slowly getting phased out.

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Thanks for the info =) –  Pacerier Jun 3 '12 at 18:12

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