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If you are older than your uncle or aunt, do you still address them as 叔母さん or 叔父さん? I see no reason why you wouldn't, but I recall once seeing a description saying that family titles are only used for elder relatives.

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There are obviously no official "rules" regarding the matter as it is something that each family should decide on.

In the vast majority of families, howeber, one would not be taught to address one's younger uncle or aunt as 「叔父{おじ}さん」 or 「叔母{おば}さん」, respectively. That would be almost unthinkable.

How one would be taught to address them by one's parents and other adults in the family would differ from one family to another. Most would go with 「first name + くん/ちゃん」 or using nicknames which also would also often end with 「くん/ちゃん」.

If your uncle or aunt were even a year older, you are likely to be taught to address them as 「おにいちゃん(or さん)」 or 「おねえちゃん(or さん)」 as well as using 「first name + くん/ちゃん/さん」.

When I was a kid, my father's youngest sister was just a little over 20 and single and my mother's youngest sister, still a high schooler. I was strictly forbidden to address or refer to them as 「叔母さん」 because that would have made them "look" unnecessarily older to the public eye.

So I grew up addressing and referring to my father's sister as 「おねえちゃん」 and my mother's sister as 「first name + ちゃん」.

Now that everyone is old enough, I use 「おばさん」 in addressing and 「おば」 in referring to those two aunts.

  • 2
    That's interesting. In China traditionally it's the norm to just call them as they are regardless of age differences and nobody would feel weird/taken offense by that. I think on the contrary if you don't address people by their proper names you'd be in big troubles. In fact with large families abound it's usual to see somebody calling a kid with a title on the same level of his grandparents! – xji Aug 14 '15 at 15:18
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I think many people will feel uneasy if they are addressed as 叔母さん/叔父さん by someone older than them, even when they're 叔母/叔父 by definition. This is true especially when your 叔父/叔母 is relatively young.

There is no single safe answer for this, but practically, you can just ask your aunt/uncle how to address them, saying something like 「叔父さんって呼ぶのは変だよね、なんて呼べばいいかな」. They may allow you to address them using their nickname. But it greatly depends on the relationship of you and your aunt/uncle.

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