I researched on Jisho.org and both terms are listed for Prime Minister.

1 Answer 1


Both mean Prime Minister, though the usage can be slightly nuanced. The tl;dr version is that you can use either, but そうりだいじん is a more formal title and しゅしょう is a colloquial nickname people have come to use when referring to the office.

The kanji might help a bit in explaining this. The more specific title of the Prime Minister is 内閣総理大臣{ないかくそうりだいじん} which can be broken down into a couple key words: 内閣{ないかく}, which means the "interior cabinet" of the government; 総理{そうり}, which means "leader" or "overseer"; and 大臣{だいじん}, which means " cabinet minister." Putting this all together we something along the lines of "Lead Minister of the Interior Cabinet," or, as we like to say in English, "Prime Minister." 総理大臣{そうりだいじん} is thus actually an abbreviation of the Prime Minister's official title.

I'm not as sure about the specific nuance of 首相{しゅしょう}, but the dictionaries I've looked at tend to list it simply as a colloquial nickname for the Office. Listed as synonyms are 内閣総理大臣, 総理大臣, 総理, and 宰相{さいしょう}, so from what I've seen there isn't a case in which it'd be more "correct' to use 首相 over 総理大臣.

That said, one discussion I found on the terms noted that people of the Prime Minister's party tend to refer to them as 総理大臣 and members of the opposition parties often choose to use 首相, indicating that 総理大臣 comes off as more respectful, likely due to it sounding more official. I'm not sure if this distinction is prevalent in terms of the everyday usage of the words by regular people, but it may be a salient thing to remember if you're ever writing about the Prime Minister. One additional note is that it seems more common to use 首相 when talking about the Prime Ministers of other countries, though I would doubt that this convention is due to a lack of regard for other countries.

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