I've perused many sites and have found "コ上," but if I hit translate, I get "co-on," a term I am not familiar with. Is this a Japanese term with no English equivalent?

I'm attempting to read a manga and this phrase pops up twice and has me completely baffled. Below are the contexts in which I found them. Any help would be much appreciated.




  • I bet the reason you're getting "co-on" is that the translation software tokenizes it into コ, which it treats a loanword from English "co" (like the prefix, maybe?), plus 上, which can, in some contexts, mean "on" (机の上の本 = "the book on the desk"). Given that コ上 isn't a lexical item in Japanese, one can scarcely expect the translation software to do much better.
    – senshin
    Sep 20, 2015 at 5:41
  • 4
    I don't recommend using translation software to learn Japanese. It'll work okay when you're lucky, but it'll just confuse you when you're not.
    – user1478
    Sep 20, 2015 at 5:45

1 Answer 1


I think the reason you aren't finding it is that you're parsing wrong.

You should split it as 1コ and then 上. And for this コ, you can think of it as the kanji [個]{こ}, which is one of the most generic counter words in Japanese. See the Wikipedia article on Japanese counter word and ウィキペディア「日本語の助数詞」.

1個上 in this case means 1 level above.



= he's one [year/grade] above us but ...

1コ上の先輩に聞いたんだけど ...

= I heard it from the sempai one year above us but ...

As per the comment, this can only be used for comparatives, like 1個上, 2コ下, ...

If you want to say the year directly, you would say 一年生, 二年生

  • 6
    It is probably worth noting that コ(個) is used only for difference between ages/grades. 「私は 1年生で、彼は2コ上の 3年生」 is correct but 「私は1コ生」 is wrong.
    – Hideki
    Sep 20, 2015 at 4:35
  • What nuance is imbued by using コ in place of 個? I don't believe it's emphasis (like in オレら).
    – jogloran
    Sep 20, 2015 at 7:31
  • @jogloran I'd guess it's just a stylistic choice. I've seen コ used in place of 個 before in manga and such. Anyway, I've never seen 1コ上 to refer to age. It's always been 1つ上
    – oals
    Sep 20, 2015 at 19:15

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