Friday, July 22, 2016

sama 様 - Honorific

In Japanese, sama 様, also spelled sama さま,. is a honorific suffix used to refer to people with respect. It's normally used toward customers, clients. In anime, it's used by a slave or servant to refer to their master, lord, or lady. To refer to deities, and to other beings who're superior to the speaker.

Manga: Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。 (Chapter 14)


The usage of the sama 様 suffix is rather complicated. Basically, it's supposed to refer to someone who's superior to you. Them being superior makes you inferior, so it's a humbling word.

Due to this superiority connotation, in practice, the sama 様 suffix is only used under certain circumstances.

Normally, to refer to someone respectfully, but as an equal, the san さん suffix is used instead. This san さん suffix is actually a corruption of the word sama 様.

A corruption of san さん is the chan ちゃん suffix, which is cutesy and generally used toward girls. There's a similar corruption for the sama 様 suffix: chama ちゃま, which is used only jokingly and in a few actual words.

Besides being attached to names, sama 様 is also found in a lot of words, in particular accompanied by the honorific prefixes o お or go. See: o__san お〇〇さん for a list.


In the business world, sama 様 is normally attached to the names of clients, customers, or even employees of other companies.

It's not used to refer to people within the same company. The respect is toward people outside the company.
  • okyakusama


Certain terms for family members in Japanese can get the sama 様 suffix attached to them.

Such words are all about people who are born before you. They're older than you, that's why sama 様 can be used.

You wouldn't refer to your "younger sister," imouto, as imouto-sama, for example, because they're younger than you. When the word imouto-sama is used, it normally refers to the younger sister of other people, not your own.

Someone simply being older than you isn't enough to warrant sama 様 to be used. Again: the san さん suffix is normally used. A senior in an institution like a school can get the honorific title senpai 先輩 instead.


Slaves, servants, retainers, and so on, may refer to their master, lord, or lady with the suffix sama 様. After all, there's a very clear vertical hierarchy here.
  • goshujinsama
    A slave's master.
    A retainer's lord.
    The house's owner. Or owner of a establishment..
    One's husband.
    A summoned being's summoner.
    A pet's owner.
  • ojousama
    The daughter of the lord. Young lady.
    A random rich girl.
  • bocchama
    The son of the lord. Young master.
    A random rich boy.


It's also the case that royalty is referred to using the sama 様 suffix.
  • ousama
  • joousama
  • oujosama
  • ohimesama
    Princess. (too.)
  • oujisama


The sama 様 suffix can also be used toward deities, gods, and those hierarchically closer to God and thus above the random unblessed peasant.
  • shinpusama
    Priest. Reverend father.

Manga: Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 古見さんは、コミュ症です。 (Chapter 14)
  • kami-sama!
  • hotoke-sama!
  • Komi-sama!
  • doo suruu?
    [What should we] do?

Very Important People

In anime, it's often the case that a character is very important for some weird reason or another, and as such is revered by a lot of other characters. Such characters can end up getting the sama 様 suffix, too.

In particular, it's kind of a trope that referring to such character with sama 様 is the norm, and there will be a character that knows that very important person, but is completely unaware of that fact.

This develops into the unaware character finding it weird everybody calls the VIP with sama 様. And some of the VIP's followers correcting the unaware character, telling them: "you have to say VIP-sama, where's your respect?!"


Sometimes, the sama 様 suffix is added to someone's named sarcastically, to imply they're acting like a king, or master, and mocking how they're giving orders around, or being pretentious, and that sort of holier-than-thou attitude.

Other People

The sama 様 suffix is sometimes added to words that refer to other people, as a way to imply you respect, or should respect, other people.

The word hito, which means "person," becomes "other people," hito-sama 人様, when the honorific is added. It's used in ways like: don't bother other people, don't break into other people's houses, and so on. It implies the inherent respect you should have for others.

Similarly, ko, "child," becomes okosama お子様, which often refers to someone else's child.

Other Words

There's a couple of words worth noting about that have nothing to do with sama 様.

First, samazama, basically sama said twice, means "various."
  • samazama na yarikata
    Various ways-to-do [it].

Second, you 様, spelled with the same kanji, is a light noun used to refer to the appearance of things, how things "seem." It's normally spelled with hiragana, but you may find it spelled with kanji, too.
  • tada no shikabane no you da
    It seems it's just a corpse.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave your komento コメント in this posuto ポスト of this burogu ブログ with your questions about Japanese, doubts or whatever!

Comments containing spam, links to illegal websites, or deemed inappropriate will be removed.