This seems like a basic question, but I can't find an answer to it:

As far as I know, 美化語 refers to the ご・お・etc. prefix on words for mere beautification. However, I have seen some ambiguity in its usage, and now I am wondering: is the ご・お・etc. prefix that words take in the 尊敬語・謙譲語 conjugations also referred to as 美化語? How about the お in cases where it has been lexicalized, or nearly so (e.g. お休み、お八つ)?


2 Answers 2


In short:

  • 敬語 consists of 尊敬語, 謙譲語 and 美化語.
  • お/ご as a prefix can form either 尊敬語 or 美化語, or neither.

The concepts of 尊敬語 and 美化語 are mutually exclusive, but お/ご can be found in both. You have to remember which お-/ご-words are 尊敬語. For example,

  1. お/ご as a 尊敬語: お名前, お着物, お住まい, ご婦人, ご来店, ごゆっくり
    (Can be only used to refer to something that belongs to your boss, etc)
  2. お/ご as a 美化語: お箸, お菓子, お風呂, お片付け, ご禁制, ご大層
    (Can be used to refer to something that belongs to the speaker)
  3. お/ご in a lexicalized word: おにぎり, おでん, おなら, おしぼり, ごきぶり
    (Lexicalized; removing お won't retain the original meaning)

Broadly speaking, 1. and 2. are both 敬語. As for 3., お/ご may have been etymologically 敬語, but it has lost such a sense and it's now used as an integral part of a word.

  • 4
    おにぎり→🍙 / にぎり→🍣 Apr 19, 2021 at 4:14

First, お/ご is called 接頭語 (settou-go; “prefix”) in Japan.

Do you know "音読み" and "訓読み" ?

In most cases, 「お」 is a prefix for "訓読み", 「ご」 is a prefix for "音読み".

However, because of the difficulty level, it may be more practical to memorize them individually.

Sorry that my English is not good because I’m Japanese.

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