Friday, April 27, 2018

兄上, 姉上, 父上, 母上, Aniue, Aneue, Chichiue, Hahaue - Meaning in Japanese

In Japanese, the words aniue, aneue, chichiue, and hahaue mean "older brother," "older sister," "father," and "mother," respectively, the same thing as ani, ane, chichi and haha. However, the words with the __ue pattern have a different nuance.


The words aniue, aneue, chichiue, and hahaue are written with kanji the same way as their non-ue counterparts, except with an ue 上 suffix, of course. This ue 上 means "above," "up," the direction, by the way.
  • aniue 兄上
  • aneue 姉上
  • chichiue 父上
  • hahaue 母上


The difference between ani and aniue, ane and aneue, chichi and chichiue, and haha and hahaue, is that the ue words refers to one's relatives with more respect, however, they're all rather old words which aren't really used anymore. You may still find them in writing, but not in modern spoken Japanese.

The reason they're seen in manga and anime sometimes despite not being used in Real Life™ is because some characters are from exaggeratedly traditional families, full of ceremonies, rules, etc. Sometimes these families are anachronistic. Sometimes the character is a time-traveler, or the story is about a certain period. Sometimes the character simply likes speaking in this old-fashioned way. Etc.

Specifically, the words were particularly popular within samurai families, and were more common before the end of the Meiji era (before 1912).

By the way, you may have noticed that there's no ue counterpart for "younger brother", otouto, or "younger sister," imouto. No otoutoue or imoutoue. This isn't by coincidence. Since ue means above, we can guess the ue words imply esteem, infer respect. And as such it only applies to seniors, and only parents and older siblings are seniors. Younger siblings, children, aren't seniors, so they don't get ue words.
Family Words


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  1. Hi! I'm from Uruguay. I just found your blog and what I have read so far is amazingly clear and funny :) I'm likely going to do an archive binge but right now I have a basic question.

    I read about how romaji's pronunciation is akin to Portuguese or Spanish. However "hahaue", the romaji for 母上, seems to have an English pronunciation, and there are many other examples.

    So, how that works? Cause I have found tons of sites showing how to WRITE romaji, but none that clearly shows how to READ it. Could you give a hint on that regard, please?

    Thank you, and keep up the good work :)

    1. It isn't that complicated. Japanese is written with syllabic kana. Every syllable has one vowel. So every vowel in a romaji means there is one kana. Hahaue is then ha-ha-u-e ははうえ. Both "ha" are pronounced the same. The "u" is pronounced the same as in any other word with "u." Same for "e." This means once you get how the five vowels are pronounced, it's always those same sounds. It isn't like in English, for example, where the "a" of "say" and of "ah" sound different. あ is always the same sound.

      After that there's the consonants. They're a bit trickier. A number of them, like "h," "j," "r," sound different from what you might expect, but you get them down eventually.

      Honestly I think it'd be hard for me to write a guide on how to pronounce romaji, as it's probably more productive for you to go on Youtube and look up one of those anime song videos that have romaji on them and just see how it works in practice. This is School Rumble's OP, for example:

    2. Hi, sorry for the belated reply. Thank you very much for the explanation. Some of this I already read about or figured it out (thankfully only five vowel sounds, much like Spanish, instead of the like 15 of English).

      Thanks for the link, it was useful... and fun! I think I now have a new series to watch... at 2AM... throughout... the night... sigh

      Listening is a good tool, I will do it more. However it lets you wondering how that sound works. I mean, to know how "h" sounds in "hahaue" do not assure you that it will sound that way everywhere else, for instance.

      "Honestly I think it'd be hard for me to write a guide on how to pronounce romaji"

      I can totally understand :)

      Thank you for the useful tips, I will keep looking at it and reading your posts :)

    3. It just occurred to me that you speak Portuguese,while I speak a different language, Spanish, and we both are using a third one, English, to talk about yet a fourth, Japanese. That's something to say about communication :P