All other titles, used when addressing someone, have a kanji character. Was/Is there a kanji term for -san?


The pronunciation さん is derived from [様]{さま}. I guess it should never be written using the kanji.

  • Is that really the reason why 様 is not used for さん? There's quite a few words derived from the same source that are all commonly represented by 私.
    – dROOOze
    Jul 23 '18 at 3:58
  • 1
    I cannot think of another reason besides disambiguation. Maybe it does not matter too much if 私【わたくし】 is "misread" as わたし (and to disambiguate I also often see わたくし in kana).
    – Earthliŋ
    Jul 23 '18 at 6:25

Totally not the question you wanted, but a piece of trivia nonetheless: while there is no kanji for さん, there is a hànzì, and it's 桑: the Chinese Internet users needed to render the non-kanjified Japanese honorifics phonetically, so you'll find the versions for many others as well. (醬 is ちゃん).

  • It actually has a precedence, as originally さん came to Taiwan during the Japanese power and got actively borrowed to Taiwanese Min Nan (Hokkien): and it was there that 桑 was taken as a phonetic. Example, 歐巴桑 おばあさん. Strictly saying, 桑 is used as a phonetic for any occurrence of [saŋ].

It wouldn't work in Japanese, as the on-reading is now そう.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.