I would like to ask about the following words: 父親【ちちおや】 and 母親【ははおや】. They refer to father and mother, right? But why do they exist? When do we use them instead of お父【とう】さん and お母【かあ】さん?

I have a similar misunderstanding regarding the following two words: 両親【りょうしん】 and 父母【ふぼ】

Basically they both mean parents or 'father and mother', but what is the difference?

Thank you for your help in advance! Have a nice day!

  • 3
    Let's not forget about 父上 and 母上!
    – ssb
    Nov 27, 2012 at 15:49
  • 1
    There's 親父 and お袋, too :)
    – rintaun
    Nov 27, 2012 at 16:08
  • 1
    "Why do they exist?">> Maybe because お父さん/お母さん are native Japanese words, while 父親/母親 are Sino loanwords?
    – user1016
    Nov 27, 2012 at 20:10
  • 1
    @Chocolate, 父親 and 母親 are not Sino loanwords (unless maybe you pronounce them ふしん and ぼしん =)
    – dainichi
    Nov 28, 2012 at 3:00
  • 2
    dad daddy pop pops father paterfamilias . i could probably think of more english words for father. it might be instructive to make a list correlating all them between japanese and english but it is a difference in familiarity and tone and politeness etc
    – yadokari
    Nov 28, 2012 at 4:09

2 Answers 2


'why do they exist' is kind of a strange question; why does any synonym exist? If you're asking for a 'difference' between the two expressions, then 父母 is a biological term implicating a biological mother and father, and 両親 is a social term-- an adopted child's parents are 両親, not 父母. Naturally, a non-adopted child's parents are 両親 as well.

As for 母親/父親, these words ring a bit more 'proper' than お父さん/お母さん. In this case, it's a bit more about nuance-- the latter is a bit warmer/intimate than the former. You might directly call your father お父さん, but when talking to your boss about him, it would likely be preferable to call him 父親.

  • Thank you for your answer. I meant with "why do they exist?" What their purpose is. It is ok to have synonyms, but as your answer contains it, it is important to know in which context it is good to use them. So this is why I asked why they exist what the aim of their use is. anyway thank you very much Nov 27, 2012 at 17:14
  • "What their purpose is.">> I think there's already an answer written in this post: "You might directly call your father お父さん but~~". We use お父さん/お母さん when we directly call our parents, like "Mom/Dad". (BTW you have "Mother/Father" too. Why do they exist?) We use 父親/母親(or[父]{ちち}/[母]{はは}) when we talk about our parents with someone outside our family. (It's often regarded childish to refer to your parents as お父さん/お母さん/パパ/ママ when you're talking to other people.)
    – user1016
    Nov 27, 2012 at 20:30
  • Thank you for your reaction. I just tried to explain what I meant with my line. I didn't mean to reask. Nov 27, 2012 at 21:32
  • 2
    Ah I see... P.S... We don't directly call our parents 父親/母親/父/母 (←I mean, these are not used as "the vocative case"). And... [親父]{おやじ} and お[袋]{ふくろ} are normally used by males.(←These are used as "the vocative case" too.) (お)[父上]{ちちうえ}([様]{さま}) and (お)[母上]{ははうえ}([様]{さま}) sound polite and formal but quite archaic, so I doubt even our loyal family members are using them nowadays... Probably they're using お[父様]{とうさま}/お[母様]{かあさま}.
    – user1016
    Nov 27, 2012 at 22:11
  • Why would you use 父親 rather than 父{ちち} when talking with your boss?
    – Golden Cuy
    Aug 4, 2014 at 12:27

Just one thing that I noticed about [両親]{りょうしん} and [父母]{ふぼ}・・・

We say ご両親 to mean "your(=the hearer's) parents", but we don't use 父母 here instead.


So I think 両親 can be used in an honorific expression([尊敬語]{そんけいご}), but 父母 can't.
On the other hand, you can use either 父母 or 両親 to say "my parents".


So I think both 父母 and 両親 can be used in a humble expression([謙譲語]{けんじょうご}).
(Why...? I don't know... Anyone?)

  • 1
    There are other situations where one is used over the other, like 祖父母, 父母会, 義父母, etc. I think this lends some credence to the idea of 両親 as a little more honorific and 父母 as a direct reference to the idea of a father and mother.
    – ssb
    Nov 27, 2012 at 23:37

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