Having watched jidai-geki for a long time, I have come across many Samurai-isms, but I can recall only a few. I would like to be able to do this more believably the next time I'm at the Izakaya.

What words and phrases are most commonly heard in jidai geki or period anime that would achieve this goal?

  • I realise this is slightly subjective, but where else do you ask this kind of question?? A tick will be awarded to the answer with the best coverage. :D – crunchyt Jun 6 '11 at 4:38
  • May be, read the comics? – YOU Jun 6 '11 at 4:44
  • Watch japanese samurai movies with real actors, one my sensei let us watch some of those if we finish the test very soon :P – Vicfred Jun 6 '11 at 5:04
  • We can make this a community wiki, so everyone can answer and the question is not "subjective" anymore. – Alenanno Jun 6 '11 at 7:47
  • what a cool question hahaha :) +1 – Herr Jun 11 '11 at 7:52

Well, there is indeed a stereotypical "Samurai way of talking" that you can see in Samurai films or in historical dramas (時代劇, Jidaigeki) on TV, but it's far from being authentic. In fact, Samurai talked in many different ways, depending on the era and their home province (after all, they were speaking in their dialect).

As far as I know, the stereotypical Samurai speech in Jidaigeki is actually based on the Edo dialect of late Edo period. Many of the mannerisms you'd find in this speech do not specifically represent Samurai, but rather a typical resident of Edo in that particular time.

The most striking feature of this speech is the complete absence of the modern ~ます forms, which are sometimes replaced by other polite forms, but very often find Keigo used with plain forms. The most noticeable alternative polite form of this Edo-jidai speech is probably the polite/humble copula で御座る which is often used wholesale instead of any other copula. Just note that is copula is considered humble, so usually when speaking about someone else (at least someone you'd want to respectful to :)), you'd use the honorific copula でいらっしゃる instead of で御座る. For instance:


But when asking someone else for their name:


Note the first-person pronoun I used in the first example. 拙者 (せっしゃ) also highly identified with Samurai speech. It literally means something like "clumsy person", so it's a humble pronoun of course. In Jidaigeki, some Samurai use it, but the more haughty ones would probably use a different pronoun, such as おれ。

Another personal pronoun that's highly identified with Samurai speech is the second person pronoun お主. Again, you won't see every Jidaigeki Samurai using it, but it's highly stereotypical.

  • ​​​​​​​​​​​ +1 for ござる – YOU Jun 6 '11 at 8:46
  • I was thinking of 拙者は and ござる, too. But you are right, these are the stereotypical Samurai speech rather than how the real Samurai spoke. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 6 '11 at 13:06
  • (tick) I liked the differentiation you drew between actual and stereotypical. You've broadened my horizons. – crunchyt Jun 14 '11 at 13:31
  • @crunchyt: I'm glad I did, since it's very easy to mix up the two. :) – Boaz Yaniv Jun 14 '11 at 18:05

For a good start, all you need is to watch Rurouni Kenshin and start imitating.

  • This is actually a good idea to get some practice, since Kenshin himself sticks to a stereotypical Samurai-speech. Except for the おろ. :D But you should note that most other characters have a completely modern language (with some pompous anime archaisms, but otherwise modern). – Boaz Yaniv Jun 14 '11 at 18:07
  • 1
    @Boaz yea lol i had a shock when i checked what is おろ in the dictionary.. – Pacerier Jun 15 '11 at 2:24

The first word I'd learn is "bushido." Which translates into "warrior code."

You might also learn words like "on" (obligation) and "giri" (duty). These are concepts used by the chivalric samurai.

  • Haha, I smiled when I saw this one. I've been a student of budo for 17 years :D Boaz's answer was more what I was looking for. Thx tho. – crunchyt Jun 14 '11 at 13:30

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.