Good day, I just want to ask in-general if these words have a different level of meaning or are they interchangeable when attched to a family name 家、氏、藩、閥、族、一族、一門、家門、閥族 。 I'm somewhat aware that a 藩 is a domain and 家 is literally a family for example the 伊達家 used to own the 伊達藩。 But I would like to know the exact difference of the other words for example the difference between 伊達氏 and 伊達一族 and all the other words above. Because for me a 氏 is literally the clan itself while an 一族 is something larger like the 田村家 is a part of the much larger 伊達一族。

Thank you all in advance for the reply, and may you all have a good day.

  • 閥 just means "faction" and has nothing particular with family names. 嘉門 and 閥族 don't attach to names. Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 2:26

1 Answer 1


家【け】 neutrally refers to both an individual household and the whole clan spanning several hundred years or more. For example 徳川家 refers to the whole Tokugawa clan.

一族【いちぞく】 refers to a group of people/households who are related by blood. This mainly refers to those living in the same period, and they often do similar things like running a government, managing a circus, making violins, etc.

氏【うじ】 referred to an old form of Japanese clans. See: Uji (clan). Basically this is an uncommon historical term. As you may already know, today 氏 is usually read し and is used as a suffix for a person with that family name ("Mr./Ms. ~"). In academic contexts you can say 徳川氏 (とくがわし or とくがわうじ) to refer to Tokugawa clan, but this may be a little confusing to laypeople.

族【ぞく】 is "~ tribe". It refers to a social/ethnic group which is much larger than a family.

藩【はん】 is a suffix for old Japanese municipalities, not people nor families. See Han system.

閥【ばつ】 is a dated word for a familial corporation conglomerate. See: Zaibatsu.

一門【いちもん】, in modern Japanese, usually refers to a group of rakugo performers, sumo wrestlers, etc. Members do not have to be related by blood.

家門 and 閥族 are very rare and I believe you can forget them.

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