The English edition of Wiktionary gives as Japanese translations of "son"

Japanese: 息子 (ja) ‎(むすこ, musuko), 坊っちゃん ‎(ぼっちゃん, botchan) (honorific), せがれ ‎(segare) (humble)

The entry on 息子 mentions that it's used for your own son when talking to other people, and mentions as the polite forms 坊っちゃん (which has an entry in Wiktionary) and 息子さん (which doesn't).

I got corrected when using 坊{ぼ}っちゃん online to use 息子さん instead. Also, doing a google image search for 坊っちゃん got a lot of anime hits, whereas doing an image search for 息子さん got lots of ordinary images of people's sons.

Is 坊{ぼ}っちゃん a normal word for someone else's son?

  • 1
    It's and old word, nowadays nobody calls other people's son 坊っちゃん, unless is trying to be pejorative. So it's normal you got corrected. But everyone remembers it thanks to Soseki's novel.
    – dabisu
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 23:41

1 Answer 1


According to the dictionary the first meaning of 坊ちゃん is, as you say, an honorific for "son", and that is probably the original meaning of the word:

But there is also a second meaning, probably that appeared later: "greenhorn", or possibly "spoiled child", someone who has lived a rich life and knows nothing about the real world.
This second meaning has a negative connotation.

Also 坊ちゃん is the name of a famous novel written by Sōseki Natsume.

So when you say 坊ちゃん most people will probably think of the novel, instead of the original meaning of the word.

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