I came across 婦 from this English-language Wikipedia article.

Jisho.org says that 婦 (which contains 女 in it) can mean married woman, but it can mean woman or lady, and it then lists words such as 婦警 for policewoman and 婦長 for head nurse, ie roles where I assume her marital status isn't relevant.

What differences, if any, exist between 婦 and 女, outside of the context of someone being married?

  • 2
    It could be that characters like 婦 denote some sort of career-related (or work-related) meaning, because 帚 (the part on the right side of the character in question,) includes the meaning of a broom or brush (which, perhaps, includes the idea of housework?)
    – summea
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 15:37
  • Sure, and the "fu" in "kung fu" is 夫, the kanji for "husband". So kung fu must have something to do with married guys. Aha! It's something they go do to get away from their wives.
    – Kaz
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 7:07
  • Maybe "wife" is considered a profession, akin to domestic engineer.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 8:59
  • @Kaz sort of funny joke, but 夫 is like "man", meaning both "husband" ("man and wife") and "human male" in general. 婦 is like "woman", meaning both "wife" ("my woman") and "human female" in general. 婦女 means "women". Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 4:32

3 Answers 3


I honestly don't think any assumption about policewomen being married lies behind e.g. the word 婦警.

As Goo says, one meaning of 婦 is "married woman", another is "working woman" (although those two might be negatively correlated).


I think that it does imply married woman, and when it is used for women regardless of the martial status, I guess it is assumed (politically) incorrectly that women at a certain age are indeed married.

  • I don't know what used to happen in Japan, but in western countries, women left work, or were even forced out of some jobs, when they got married: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… pbs.org/fmc/book/2work8.htm
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 3:07
  • @AndrewGrimm That is the same in Japan. They were not frequent. That is why a woman police officer is particularly marked with extra element. There is no special word for a male police officer because sexually biased people (which are the majority) imagine form the word 警察官 a male police officer.
    – user458
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 3:18

I would back off from over analyzing kanji.

Despite the fact that they do carry meaning, the words they make up might not contain that meaning.

In some case words may have multiple "spellings" containing different kanji. A good example of this would be 貴方{あなた} 貴男{あなた} and 貴女{あなた}

However in most cases there is only one common "spelling" and the meaning of the kanji that make it up is most irreverent.

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