And kanji with manga
Saturday, April 21, 2018

息子, Musuko - Meaning in Japanese

The word musuko means "son" in Japanese, most of the time.


The word musuko written with kanji is musuko 息子.

Note that the 子 kanji can be read as ko 子, but normally you don't read 息 as musu. So how come 息子 is read musuko?

This happens because musuko is a jukujikun 熟字訓 reading, so it doesn't conform to the standard readings of the kanji.

But then where does the musu come from? From the word musu 生す, which means to give birth to, to spawn, to grow something from nothing, etc. (reference: 息子 -


You may have that, while a bunch of words for family members in Japanese follow an o__san お〇〇さん pattern, the word musuko does not. Why is that? Why musuko doesn't have a san honorific in it?

Well, this happens because honorifics are used to make reverence, and though you'd normally make a reverence toward your elders, it'd be silly to do the same toward your juniors. That's why musuko doesn't have a san, but the words for "father" and "mother," otousan and okaasan, do.

Note, however, that the word musukosan 息子さん does exist. Because when you're speaking about other people, in this case, other people's sons, then using the honorific is a sign of respect. Based on this, musuko is often your own son, while musukosan is pretty much always someone else's son.


Sometimes the word musuko 息子 comes after the word mago 孫, which means "grandchild," turning into magomusuko 孫息子. This magomusuko means "grandson" instead of the neutral "grandchild."

Slang Usage

Colloquially, the term musuko may sometimes be used as a slang to refer to one's own penis instead of their son. I'll leave the reason for this to the reader's imagination.

In particular, the phrase—
  • itsumo musuko ga osewa ni natteorimasu いつも息子がお世話になっております
    Often [my] son is in [your] care. (literally)
    Thank you for taking care of my son.

—is normally an innocent expression of gratitude, but, specially in the internet, it can mean something perverted instead.

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