Does anyone know of any o-words or go-words which are absolutely neutral (have no nuances of being polite / courteous / respectful / womanly / cute etc etc)?

The only ones I'm aware of currently is おちゃ and ごはん


Does anyone know of any o-words or go-words that when the お or ご is omitted, becomes another word or not a word altogether?

The only ones I'm aware of currently is ごはん

  • 2
    I wonder if おまえ counts.
    – phirru
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 10:09
  • 2
    I've heard that Omae used to be polite way back when so that o would be polite Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 13:01

3 Answers 3


Here is a list of neutral o- and go- words:

  • お手玉 'small bag for juggling'
  • おみくじ 'written oracle'
  • お冠 'being angry' [Not crown]
  • お目玉 'being angry' [Not eye ball]
  • お新香 'pickle'
  • おにぎり 'rice ball' [Not sushi]
  • おむすび
  • おこぼれ 'something positive gained (unexpectedly) from someone else' [Not falling off]
  • お裾分け 'a portion given away'
  • お下がり 'used thing (clothes, etc.) often given from a senior to a junior sibling' [Not going down]
  • お流れ 'cancel' [Not current]
  • おあずけ
  • お手上げ
  • お手
  • おかわり
  • お手付き
  • お年玉
  • お多福
  • heys btw just to clarify, do you mean that for お手玉, おみくじ, お新香, お裾分け we can remove the を and the meaning would still be the same but for the rest we couldn't?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 14:18
  • @Pacerier No. For all of them, if you remove , it would either not be a word used in present Japanese, or a word with a different meaning. For the ones that I put explanation in brackets, there is a word without with a different meaning.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 21:59
  • I have been told a few times that お金 is an example of a 'neutral' word with お on the front, but since it works fine as 金 by itself, I guess that it doesn't apply. Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 14:31
  • These are all historical changes, and some words are under transition now. But I think for 'お金', 'お' still has politeness.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 31, 2011 at 14:36
  • @sawa Btw I was wondering when we use "お休み" to mean that someone has taken a day off school/work, is the "お" in "お休み" considered neutral, or does it carry respect ?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Mar 30, 2012 at 17:35

I do not know what you mean by “absolutely neutral (have no nuances of being polite / courteous / respectful / womanly / cute etc etc).”

Saying お茶{ちゃ} is definitely more polite to the listener than saying 茶{ちゃ}. The same applies to お冷{ひや} in Dave M G’s answer: it is a polite form of a rarer word 冷 (ひや; often written as 冷や).

ご in ご飯{はん}'cannot be simply removed (because 飯 read as はん is not a word in itself), but ご飯 is at least more polite than 飯{めし}. I do not think that there is any reason to believe that ご in ご飯 means anything other than politeness.

phirru mentioned おまえ in a comment on the question. I do not know the etymology of お前{まえ}, but I guess that お in お前 originally comes from the same お meaning politeness.

  • 2
    This is actually a good question. If you think about the origin, these and used to be polite, but over the time, the version without them disappeared, and these prefixes on them lost their polite meaning. This is a usual thing in language change. The fact that (han) and (mae) is not said in the relevant sense is the criterion that in 御飯 and in お前 do not express polite anymore. With お茶, I agree that still expresses politeness. Do you really say 'hiya' in the relevant sense?
    – user458
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 13:09
  • 1
    @sawa: I wrote my opinion in the answer. I do not agree with your opinion that the prefixes lost their polite meaning in the case where the versions without the prefixes disappeared. Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 13:17
  • thanks for pointing out the vagueness of the question. i've edited it
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 13:59
  • 1
    For anybody reading these comments and interested in the process mentioned by sawa, you can get an introduction from reading the Wikipedia article on lexicalization. Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 0:37

お冷{ひや} for a "cold drink of water", at a restaurant, is one.

As an updated answer to your updated question, お冷 doesn't become a different word or a non-word if the お is omitted. I don't think that circumstance exists.

However, having wondered myself if 冷, by itself, would be understood in a restaurant context, I've tried it and can say from experience that waitstaff will look at you quizzically if you drop the お.

お冷, like most お and ご words, has become a conventional set phrase. Changing it up is just weird.

  • heys btw will ひや itself work/not work ?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 13:54
  • Interesting. I hadn't heard of お冷, and according to this page at least, お冷 is more of a word that the waiter uses? Or is it different to お水 somehow?
    – rjh
    Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 17:35

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