It seems like they both mean the same, young man. What is the difference between them?

1 Answer 1


According to this site: http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1312853

少年 is used for persons till 20 years (or depending on the law from elementary school till 18 years)

青年 is used for persons from 14/15 years till 24/25 years.

Also you should take care, that 青年 and 少年 can be used for females, too. (See comments from eltonjohn and snailboat.)

  • I would just like to add that by looking at the kanji you can infer a lot; one means "small" or "fewer" and the other means "blue" or "green" (as in the case of an unripened fruit). Years-too-few and Not-yet-ripe.
    – sova
    Jul 3, 2015 at 4:22
  • 2
    <it is used for male and female> Well, 青年 is surely used for both male and female as in 青年男女, whereas 少年 is mainly used for male: we usually say 少女 for girl(s). For the record, in legal context, 少年 refers to both male and female.
    – eltonjohn
    Jul 3, 2015 at 7:21
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    @sova I think the use of 青 is meant to evoke spring, as in 青春, not lack of ripeness. (Well, not directly, anyway. Of course spring itself evokes lack of ripeness.) Jul 3, 2015 at 9:13
  • 2
    I think there is a tendency to use 青年 for males, though.
    – user1478
    Jul 3, 2015 at 12:48

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