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First, this is my very first post here, and I am a complete newbie when it comes to the Japanese language. I have, however, been very interested in the Japanese language and culture: I have been doing a Japanese martial art for 14 years, have been reading about martial arts history in Japan for a long time, and am a big Manga/Anime fan. Please go easy on me :)

I have a question about constructing a phrase in Japanese. I would like to say "wolf child" in Japanese and am wondering whether it is essential to use の in the middle, between wolf and child.

  • Is it correct to use 子 (ko) to denote "child" in general?
  • Is "Ōkami no ko" correct?
  • How about "Ōkami ko"? Is it 100% wrong to drop "no" from the middle?

Basically, my question is whether it's possible to say "wolf child" instead of "child of wolf" in Japanese (e.g., in spoken language versus formal/written language), and if so, would dropping の (no) accomplish this?

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    There is a quite famous anime movie called 「おおかみこどもの雨と雪」 - Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki - The wolf Children Ame and Yuki. Maybe this helps :) – Felipe Oliveira Jun 13 '18 at 16:51
  • Yes! I know about that anime...but I don't know Japanese and wanted to be sure that I'm not making things up! :) – darXider Jun 13 '18 at 17:20
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Basically, we don't say "an animal name + 子" like 牛子, オオカミ子 as the meaning of a child of animals, we say "an animal name + の子" or "子 + an animal name" like 牛の子 and 子牛 as the meaning of that.

However オオカミの子 can mean "child raised by wolves". I think this is because it became a novel and manga.

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There is indeed a prefix 子, which appears to be quite productive, i.e. for most animals you can simply prepend 子 to the name of an animal to get a word for this animal's young, e.g.

  • 子犬 koinu pup
  • 子猫 koneko kitten
  • 子鹿 kojika fawn
  • 子牛 koushi calf
  • 子山羊 koyagi kid

(Actually, I wish it were this simple in English.)

However, for wolves オオカミの子 seems to be more common. Maybe because オオカミ starts with a long オオ, or because it feels like it already has a prefix おお (its etymology appears to be indeed 大 + かみ).

In any case, there is no such productive suffix now (although to make things confusing, there are 犬子, 鹿子, and possibly others).

  • Thanks! I was not aware that 子 could be used as a prefix as well. I do agree that with wolf (オオカミ), it would sound better when used at the end though; however, do you know if の is absolutely necessary in オオカミの子 (Ōkami no ko)? – darXider Jun 13 '18 at 16:40
  • @darXider case particle の is necessary unless the two nouns produce a new compound (which is not the case with オオカミ and 子). – user4092 Jun 13 '18 at 16:50
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    Maybe I misunderstood the question... There is オオカミ子供 or オオカミっ子, referring to "wolf child" as in "child raised by wolves". – Earthliŋ Jun 13 '18 at 17:33
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    @FelipeOliveira オオカミ子供 is an utterly new creative compound and doesn't make sense itself. However, audience can understand with analogy to オオカミ男 (werewolf) from the contents of the film. – user4092 Jun 14 '18 at 1:56
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    @Felipe 「オオカミの子供」とか「子供のオオカミ」のほうがいいかな・・ – Chocolate Jun 14 '18 at 2:14
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It's not 100 percent wrong, but it is less common. There are examples of its use online. "Ookami no ko" literally means "child of a wolf" or "wolf's child", and depending on context, in fantasy/fiction could refer to a human child with wolf attributes or raised by wolves, or could be the more biologically correct "wolf's pup/ wolf cub". Although the form without "no", "オオカミ子" does show up in an online search, it's more rare, and seems to always be a reference to actual wolf pups, and not the fictional human variants.

  • Thank you! I don't mean to use it to reference a human, but an animal, to denote that he/she is a descendant of wolves. – darXider Jun 13 '18 at 16:35
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    オオカミ子 is 100% wrong (unless it's a proper noun or something). A word is not necessarily accurate just because image search shows something. Apart from that, オオカミっ子 can mean those who like wolves or so. – user4092 Jun 13 '18 at 16:35
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    Sorry, it's probably not "not necessarily accurate" but the search engine parses it as オオカミ and 子. – user4092 Jun 13 '18 at 16:45

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