Good afternoon all,

I was wondering is it true that

  1. "看護師" is a gender-neutral way of referring to a "nurse",

  2. Whereas "看護婦" implies that it is a girl,

  3. And "看護士" implies that it is a guy?

Initially that's what I'd thought, but WWWJDIC lists "看護士" as:

看護士 【かんごし】 (n) nurse (may be male nurse)

Hence I was abit confused with the actual usage of the words "看護師" and "看護士".

What is the difference between "看護師" and "看護士"?

2 Answers 2


Although a direct answer to your question is possible, it may be helpful to look at the history of these words.

I was taught that back when male nurses were rarer, 看護婦 was used as a catchall term when the gender of the nurse was unspecified. It sounds old-fashioned or politically incorrect when used this way now, and 看護師 has become much more common.

This is backed up by wikipedia, which states that nurses of both genders were defined (legally) as 看護婦 in 1948, later divided into female 看護婦 and male 看護士 in 1968, before being merged to the general term 看護師 more recently in 2002.

To answer your question, you're correct about the gender implications of 看護婦 and 看護士, and the female variant in particular is still used by some, colloquially. That said, I believe the most common modern term for all nurses is 看護師. The more correct way now if you still need to be gender-specific would be 女性の看護師 and 男性の看護師.

Warning: what follows is pure speculation on my part
As for WWWJDIC's definition of 看護士, I personally have never seen 看護士 refer to a non-male nurse, and would consider this to be incorrect, so I'm not sure why the definition says "may be...". Perhaps this is something to do with the fact that the pronunciation is the same as 看護師, and the change of terminology described above has led to some confusion? I remember even my teacher struggled to explain it at first.

  • @ジョン Cool, Btw do you mean to say that WWWJDIC is wrong to list "看護士" as "(n) nurse (may be male nurse)" because "看護士" should be listed as "(n) nurse (male)" ?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 14:36
  • @Pacerier As you commented I was updating my answer to address that :) I'm kind of scared to call a dictionary incorrect, but WWWJDIC isn't the most infallible of dictionaries, and I can't see why there's any doubt about 看護士 being male. Edit: Looks like goo is with me too.
    – ジョン
    Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 14:42
  • It could be that whoever wrote the definition for 看護士【かんごし】 was not entirely sure of the definition, and they were saying that it is definitely "nurse" (but maybe it's "male nurse").
    – rintaun
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 11:15
  • 1
    @rintaun I guess so. It just doesn't make any sense to me that someone who wasn't sure of a definition would contribute it to a dictionary, lol.
    – ジョン
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 11:19
  • The definition by WWWJDIC will be considered rather correct in future because that's what average modern speakers imagine.
    – user4092
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 21:38
  1. 看護師 is gender-neutral.
  2. 看護士 is a male 看護師.
  3. 看護婦 is a female 看護師.

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