And kanji with manga
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

loli ロリ

NSFW: this article may contain words or images you'd rather not have your boss see.
Everyone knows what a loli is. EVERYONE. Okay, fine, not everyone everyone, but most people who've spent more than ten minutes on virtually any anime forum know what it means. So, for you who's still uninitiated, a post about the meaning of loli, so you can smugly know more about it the people who've befuddled you.


In summary: a "loli" is a "little young girl" character, more or less. In essence, lolis are just that. But there is immense debate in the fandom over what exactly defines a loli, specially in regards to age, physical attributes, etc.


A loli character normally features a combination of the following ideal attributes:
  • Short.
  • Slender.
  • Flat-chested.
  • Child-like behavior.
  • Young face, larger eyes.
  • Childish voice, lisp, speech patterns, vocabulary.
  • Extremely cute. Overly happy with a big smile, or overly shy.
  • Elementary or middle school girl, usually seen wearing a school uniform.

However, a loli's attributes may vary immensely.

A loli may be tall. Giant, in fact. A loli may have large breasts instead of the expected undeveloped chest because the artist is a pervert. A loli may have a bitch personality that's not cute at all. She may have a wrinkled face that's not young at all. And she may not even be in school. So the above are more like guidelines than actual rules. (see types of loli)

Although, when the attributes above are all combined in one character, it creates the most classic, most symbolic, most stereotypical loli character, which is, quite literally, just a child.

Loli character Hachikuji Mayoi from anime Bakemonogatari

For reference, the anime characters database has a list of loli characters.

Loli vs. Lolicon

A loli is not the same thing as lolicon. Some people mistakenly think that loli is an abbreviation of lolicon, but that is not correct.

The difference between loli and lolicon is that a loli is little girl character, while lolicon refers to either hentai pornography featuring loli characters, or, mostly in Japanese, a person who's attracted to lolis (a pedophile).

Male Loli

The term loli only applies to girls. A male loli doesn't exist (I... I think?). Instead, the term shota ショタ is used for boys.

Written in Japanese

Awkwardly, the word "loli" written in Japanese is rori ロリ, a katakanization, so it doesn't have kanji, and is usually written with katakana. The L's were replaced by R's because Japanese people can't pronounce L syllables.

This term is synonymous with rorikko ロリっ子, also written rorikko ロリっ娘. And a "loli character," specifically, would be a rorikyara ロリキャラ.

Origin of The Word

The word "loli," or rori, comes from the term lolicon, or rorikon ロリコン, which comes from "The Lolita Complex," a book written by Russel Trainer. So "loli" is short for "lolita."

A "lolita," by the way, is defined as "a sexually precocious young girl" (Oxford Dictionary), and this word comes from the name of the 12 year old girl character called Lolita, from the 1955 novel called Lolita, written by Vladimir Nabokov.

Age Requirements

It's a common misunderstanding that the term loli refers to an "underage girl." It does not. There's realistically no age requirement or age group for lolis. The entirety of the concept, as far as manga and anime are concerned, is based entirely on the looks of the character.

If the character looks like (they're drawn like) they're a kid, then it's a loli. Normally, this means they're short in height and lack secondary sexual characteristics (boobs, etc.), but there are plenty of abnormal cases too.

Hundred Years Old Loli

I mean, this is pretty obvious if you think about it. In the world of 2D girls, you often find 16 year old characters that look like 10 year old girls, or 20 year old characters that look like they're in middle school, all because of the moe style. Conversely, the are also cases of child characters drawn like they're adults.

On top of that, there are also characters that don't age or age slowly. It's not uncommon for elves to live for hundreds of years, meaning a 50 year old elf could look like a 12 year old human. And when mythical entities are involved, you get 500 year old lolis.

And then there are also characters who have the body of a little girl but are actually some of century-old demon controlling her body, or that have had their bodies regressed in age because of some mysterious drug, spell or curse, or that are actually clones, or that temporarily transform into a little girl, or that are actually androids, etc.

Legal Age vs. Loli

Even if you were to ignore all the intricacies of 2D fiction and think strictly based on legal age and what is considered a crime of pedophilia and what's not, you'd still have fuzzy lines.

For example, in some of the United States, the age of consent is 18, but 16 in other states. In Canada it's 16. In Japan it's 13. Except it's not really 13. According to national law, in Japan the consent age is 13, so a prefecture can't say it's lower than 13, but they can say it's higher than 13. In effect, most places in Japan have an age of consent of 18, in some, it's the age of consent is 20 years old.

It wouldn't make a lot of sense for a 19 year old character to be a loli in some parts of Japan but not in others. So just because it'd be considered a crime of pedophilia, or of sexual relations with a minor, that wouldn't make the 2D character a loli.

Legal Loli vs. True Loli

So, given this, a loli that's canonically of legal age is dubbed a "legal loli," while an underage loli is a "true loli."

Looks Young, Not Short

A think this should be obvious, but: a loli looks young, and also happens to be short, because she looks young. A character that is simply short in height isn't a loli. An elder woman in her 80's with a curved back might be a "little girl" by her height and some huge stretch of technicality, but no sane person would call her a loli.

High-School Loli

Added to that is the question is whether a high-school girl is a loli or not.

An "elementary school student," shougakusei 小学生, is almost definitely a loli, and a "middle school student," chuugakusei 中学生, is less likely but also probably a loli. However, it's very unlikely that a "high-school student," a koukousei 高校生, is automatically a loli.

This is also kinda because most manga and anime are set in high-school.

If a high-school girl was a loli, then that means something like 80% of all female characters are lolis. What would be the point of calling characters that, then?!

But that's not to say a high-school girl can't be a loli, since age has nothing to do with it, anyway. Sometimes it looks like a loli because of the art style, so a loli. Every now and then you see a high-school girl that is, for some reason, much shorter than the girls around her, so a loli. Not to mention sometimes you have genius characters who skip a couple of grades from elementary school right into high-school. So it definitely has nothing to do with the school grade.

Flat-Chested vs. Loli

A character that's just flat-chested isn't necessarily a loli, although lolis are naturally flat-chested characters.

The word for flat-chested in Japanese would be hinnyuu 貧乳, literally "poor breasts," although you can interpret it as "small breasts" if you want. Also related is the slang munyuu 無乳, literally "no breasts," (although it can also refer to a medical condition where "no milk" comes out, agalactia).
To make matters worse, there's a type of loli that's not even flat-chested, but large-breasted, the oppai loli.

(also note that some women don't like being compared to lolis children just because they don't have a pair of sacks of fat hanging from their chest. So, even thought the Earth is flat, bear in mind that she's already 2000 years old, so it'd be insensitive to call Earth-chan a loli.)

Types of Loli

For the types of loli, see the post Types of Loli & Shota.

For terms for pairings in fanfic and doujinshi, see oneshota おねショタ.


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  1. You do realize that the earth is older than 2000 years, right?

  2. Only reason I'm searching is to prove to people I am not in fact a loli