3

There are quite a few respectful terms for parents, the least respectful of which would be お父さん and お母さん (there are less respectful ones, but they're only appropriate for your own parents or your friends' parents). A notch above those would be 母様, 父様, お母様, and お父様. The first two are rather respectful, but I don't think they're appropriate for other people's parents; meanwhile, the second too are appropriate for the parents of people who require respect. Moving up in respect we have 母上, 父上, 母君, and 父君. I think these are 尊敬語, and a little outdated to call your own parents; are the forms in 上 or 君 more respectful? You can also add お and/or 様 for further respect: (お)父上(様), (お)母上(様),(お)父君(様), and (お)母君(様). Clearly the most respectful terms would have both お and 様, but I wonder which ones. broccoli forest mentions ご母堂(様) and ご尊父(様); are those more respectful than anything I've listed?

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    ご母堂, ご尊父... – broccoli forest Dec 23 '15 at 8:12
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    Just to make the question clear, are we talking about terms for somebody else's parents when you're talking to that somebody? Or about your own parents when talking to somebody else? Or addressing your own parents when you are talking to your own parents? Or...? XD – Robin Dec 23 '15 at 17:39
  • @Ash Other people's parents. – Aeon Akechi Dec 23 '15 at 19:07
7

Practically, you can consider お父【とう】様/お母【かあ】様 as the most polite form. It's a safe word in every formal speech, even at a wedding ceremony or funeral, as long as you don't forget the prefix お.

母上/父上/父君/母君 are mainly heard in pre-war history dramas. A few old people may use these words when they make a very formal speech, but I would avoid them. If I heard someone say one of these to refer to my parents in ordinary business settings, perhaps I can't help laughing and asking back "Wow, are you from a real ninja family?" But these would be acceptable in very formal letters.

On the other hand, when someone addresses their own parents, a very few people use (お)父様/(お)母様. Personally I know no one who actually do so (except for stereotyped rich celebrities in fiction).

御母堂/御尊父/etc are clearly the politest, but I'm sure I haven't used it in my life. I know it's mainly used in condolence telegrams and such, and that's a kind of thing for which most native speakers would search the example sentences on the net.

  • There's still one thing I want to know: are 父様 and 母様 (without お) appropriate for other people's parents? – Aeon Akechi Dec 26 '15 at 12:18
  • I've been using 父上 and 母上 for several months now after I heard them on an NHK drama. I guess my friends are very good at hiding smiles. – Avery Dec 26 '15 at 13:49
  • @Nothingatall In business settings, no. To your friend's parents, perhaps yes, but I personally stick to either お父さん or お父様. – naruto Dec 26 '15 at 23:08
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Don't forget ご両親 (ごりょうしん)(Your honorable parents), if you want to show respect for them.

As in -

あなたは御両親の期待に応えるべきだ

  • This is for both parents. I was well aware the word existed, but I was asking about individual parents. – Aeon Akechi Dec 27 '15 at 12:59
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    「ご両親」 does NOT sound as respectful as your translation "your honorable parents". It is actually a pretty "normal" word choice among native speakers. – l'électeur Dec 28 '15 at 0:34

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