So, the difference between 兄{あに} and お兄{にい}さん is merely the level of formality. Based only on the rules of 敬語{けいご} you say 兄 or お兄さん. note that the reading of 兄 changes by adding .

I am almost certain that 敬語 has nothing to do with deciding whether to say 腹{はら} or お腹{なか}. Even though the superficial difference is 美化語, the difference is not about 敬語. So, what is the difference in meaning and usage? Would a doctor refer to my abdomen as 腹 or お腹? Is my へそ in the middle of my 腹 or お腹?

  • I am sorry this might seem unrelated to your question, but can you tell me how did you type Okurigana in this question?
    – rudedude
    Jun 3, 2015 at 6:47
  • @harsh.prasad I assume you are confusing "okurigana" with "furigana". To display "furigana", (1) place cursor directly after the kanji(s), (2) type "{", (3) type the reading in hiragana, (4) type "}". On the other hand, "okurigana" is just the hiragana that follows a kanji when it is read with the kunyomi reading.
    – Wrythe
    Jun 3, 2015 at 20:30
  • Yeah, i got confused with okurigana and hiragana. Thanks for that tip! Now one less mystery to worry about. ^_^
    – rudedude
    Jun 4, 2015 at 0:59

1 Answer 1


At times, they are interchangeable, but 腹 has a wider range of uses whereas お腹 is only used to refer to the belly (particularly what is 'inside' the belly).

腹 on the other hand can have the meaning of 'gut' in the psychological sense of the word as well as the physiological sense eg 'gut feeling' or 'butterflies in my stomach'.

You can see the difference when you search for the terms in dictionaries like weblio ( vs お腹)

As far as medical usage goes, I believe more specific terms are used eg 腹部(abdomen) or 胃 (stomach), so your へそ would actually be in the middle of your 腹部 if you wanted to be academic.

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