I'm reading a story where the main character debates whether he should call an cafe owner マスター or ご主人. At first he says the former doesn't fit this person, so he uses the latter, but after a conversation the owner asks him to use the term "マスター"

I looked up these two words in a dictionary, and マスター seems to correspond to "barkeep" or "master" and "ご主人" with "owner". However, none of these words in English are something you commonly use to address someone when speaking to them.

If someone can tell me the nuance between these two words, and any suggestions to map these to appropriate terms in English, I'd appreciate it.

(The story is here if you want to see the context)

  • 1
    I've heard the word オーナー more than either of your words
    – oals
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 5:55
  • Yeah, you may be right. But I guess the author of the story choose these two words for some specific nuances.
    – Locksleyu
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 5:59
  • このスレッドも参考になるかも。。。? japanese.stackexchange.com/a/29872/9831
    – chocolate
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 6:56

1 Answer 1


As a native Japanese speaker, master sounds more natural when referring to a cafe owner. ご主人 is not grammatically wrong though but ご主人 sounds more formal and appropriate when referring to someone who is much older than you. You can also call ご主人 for someone's husband to pay respects.

Example : So what does your ご主人(husband) do (for a living)?

Hope that helps.

  • Thanks. Any idea what words would be used in English? It isn't too common to call someone "master" when you talking to them one-on-one.
    – Locksleyu
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 5:35
  • マスター is commonly used at pubs/bars in Japan (places that serve alcohol). Probably the closest one is a bartender or a manager in a bar.
    – user16300
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 6:34

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