Recently I've been looking into buying myself a copy of Ghiblis 「かぐや姫の物語」(The Tale of Princess Kaguya)。

Now, the first thing I noticed about the 日本語訳 is that it had a similarly annoying word in there, that word being the honorific suffix「姫」。It and the English honorific adjective「Princess」annoy me as かぐや at no point fits the definition of ether, starting as a adopted peasant girl, and ending a kind of lunar shinto space alien chick, being at no point depicted as anything more then a kind of consort.

While yes I do understand that both these words are being used more to describe a kind of narrative archetype about her character rather then a actual position or title. This still got me thinking about these two words, and the fact that while they're near identical in there dictionary definitions, they still evolved separately and only met/were used interchangeably, later on, thus meaning there could be considerable nuance between the two.

So ya, is there any kind of noteworthy differences or nuance between these two words? Ether in the form of subtle differences in meaning, or in the form of noteworthy differences in there etymology.

I ask this because while most ancient cultures had this idea of a noble daughter, the details often reveal fascinating differences into how each group conceptualised the role, as well as a insight into what exactly made the girl a valuable asset.

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    See Terms for Royalty Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 2:04
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    @broccoliforest: nice answer, but I think an expanded explanation on specifically (the general term and かぐや姫 in particular) would be nice too. Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 9:00
  • broccoli forest ありがとうございます。 However I was asking more for a description of what makes the history of the word 姫 differ when compared to the English princess. As the idea of a 'princess' often changes drastically once you understand the nuance behind that cultures conceptualisation of the role, which is more of what i was asking for.
    – Tirous
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 19:59
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    Cool question! I feel like I've noticed a difference where 姫 is more elegant and demure, while "princess" is more cute and pink.
    – obskyr
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 1:48
  • Neat point, I really like diving into these kinds of things, tho the problem is that things like this rarely get a good reply, which is always a shame. /:)
    – Tirous
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 2:57

1 Answer 1


I don't know etymology of princess but that of ひめ is that it's comprised of ひ that stands for the sun, sunlight or spirits and め, which is a suffix to stand for female (the male version is こ, hence ひこ). It had basically meant noble women but you can find some words in the meaning of women in general like 一姫二太郎 etc.

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