■ the first person singular
Japanese has dozens of words for "I," but most are reserved for particular dialects, occupations or time periods. Still, in everyday conversation at least six words are commonly heard. (See top table below.)
Many of the words are variations or shortenings of the common わたし /watashi/.
Quite a few also mean "you," a fact which may seem puzzling at first. When the aspect of social status is taken into account for the choice of pronoun, it becomes less perplexing why, for example, a word used by men to refer to themselves might come to be used by women to also refer to men. (A modern example of this is 僕 /boku/.)
Using one's own name instead of a pronoun is not common, but it is not unheard of.
The table below is a general list of pronouns with links planned to individual pages for more details. The most common are given at top after which they are listed in 五十音図 (Japanese) order.
|私||watashi||The most versatile. Used almost exclusively by females as well as by males in polite and neutral speech. Acceptable in environments from formal to colloquial.|
|私||atashi||A female variant|
|僕||boku||Used mainly by younger males|
|俺||ore||Warning: Although 俺 is common in male speech, offense may be caused by use in an improper context.|
|自分||jibun||Also means "self"|
|あだし||From Sigma-section/Speak about Speech/971130|
|あっし||Used by artisans|
|おい||From Sigma-section/Speak about Speech/971130|
|己||おら||Used at least in the Akita dialect and by women in Ibaraki Prefecture|
|小生||しょうせい||Humble, used sometimes in business correspondence.|
|拙者||せっしゃ||Used by samurai when talking with social equals or inferiors.|
|朕||ちん||Used by the Emperor until the end of World War II|
|吾輩||わがはい||This term is familiar from the title of the 1905 novel 『吾輩は猫（ねこ）である』by 夏目漱石（なつめそうせき）, translated as "I am a Cat."|
This entry was created by Benjamin Barrett, with additional contributions by Paul Flint.
Created 2000-07-18. Typo corrected and 漱石 title added by PF 2000-07-24. Revised 2000-08-01 by BB with contributions from Maynard Hogg.