Friday, July 22, 2016

~dono ~殿 (Honorific Suffix)

In Japanese, ~dono殿 after someone's name is a honorific suffix used in formal letters, and in historical anime about samurais, or by anachronistic characters, or by otaku オタク characters.

Not to be confused by the interrogative pronoun dono どの, "which."


The dono 殿 honorific is mostly a historical and formal honorific that's not used in normal situations.


In real life, dono 殿 is used in letters, emails, documents, and so on. It's used in public, official statements, and within private institutions as well. It's practically never used in spoken speech, only in written speech.

The honorific is often used in messages issued by higher-level management addressed to lower-level employees. This gives an impression that dono 殿 must be used by a person superior to the addressee, at least in the hierarchical sense.

Given this implication, the dono 殿 honorific is avoided in the business world where the addressee must be equal or superior to the speaker. In which case the ~sama ~様 suffix is used instead.

For example, in communication between one company and another, the sama 様 suffix is used, not dono 殿.


Originally, tono 殿, with a to と, used to refer to the "mansion" where a lord lived, and, later, it started being used to refer to the feudal "lord" himself.

In the Heian period (794–1185), the dono 殿 honorific was attached to names of important people, public officials, but during the Kamakura period (1185–1333), the honorific had lost its original value, and the sama 様 honorific, considered more respectful, started being used instead.

Since dono 殿 no longer had the value to refer to import people, it started being used toward less important people. In particular, soldiers in the military, samurai, and so on.

In anime, characters that use dono 殿 are mostly samurai or ninjas and stuff like that. This normally happens when the anime is set in a historical period, but it can also happen if there's some time-travel involved, or if the character simply speaks in a very anachronistic way.


The dono 殿 suffix is sometimes used by otaku, that is, by nerds. Since it's already been established that basically no normal character uses this honorific, if you see a character using dono 殿, there's a good chance they're an otaku.

This isn't the only weird suffix that's used by them, by the way. They also use ~tan ~たん sometimes.


Honorific Suffixes

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