So, 美化語 is used to create honorifics: お名前 ご注文 etc.

But, the standard way to create the 謙譲語 form of verbs is: お+[verb stem] + いたします

That does not make logical sense to modify the action that you are performing with an honorific "お", right? There is nothing about this paradox that would help with understanding 敬語 in a broader context。Every language has its idiosyncrasies. Assigning 美化語 to action you perform is just something to memorize, right? I don't care about etymology. So, memorize and move on to the next topic?

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    What doesn't make logical sense about it? What is the paradox?
    – user1478
    Sep 21, 2013 at 0:18

2 Answers 2


Prefixing a word with or does not necessarily make it an honorific. The following is an example of humble speech (謙譲語):


...while this is an example of honorific language (尊敬語):


Notice that both phrases use お手紙.

美化語 does not mean honorific. 美化語 is used to make one's speech sound more refined (美化 = beautification, = word/language). Therefore, 美化語 is frequently used in regular polite speech. The following are examples of 美化語:

菓子 -> お菓子

酒 -> お酒

Note that not all words that are prefixed with or are examples of 美化語. For instance,


is an example of 尊敬語.

  • @kinyo Actually, in that case the お is not just a marker of refinement (in other words, it is not 美化語). The form お+<ます stem>+ください is 尊敬語. But you're right, you need to look at the entire sentence to determine if it's honorific, not just the お/ご. Sep 22, 2013 at 5:28

Not quite sure what you're asking, but not all 謙譲語 is of that form. You can have

  1. The form of ご +【漢語】+ いたす like ご注文いたす or
  2. special verbs like 申す, 拝見【はい・けん】する, 仰ぐ, etc.

You could have 美化語 together with 謙譲語 with something like

  • ご住所を伺【うかが】う → Ask for your/an address
  • お寿司をいただく → Eat sushi
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    「お」and「ご」are both 美化語。 I agree there are some 謙譲語 verbs that are completely different. 存知、おる、... Using the generalized method for 謙譲語: お読みいたします (美化語 + [verb stem] + 致す(謙譲語)) The reading uses a humble verb (致す) along with an honorific 「お」which seems to be a contraction. Maybe, I don't understand 美化語。Your example of "ご注文いたす" sounds super strange to me. I will check this out. I very well might have 美化語 wrong. thanks.
    – davewp
    Sep 20, 2013 at 23:58
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    美化語 = お/ご + word, not just お/ご`.
    – istrasci
    Sep 21, 2013 at 0:36

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