Saturday, April 21, 2018

musume 娘

The word musume 娘 means "daughter" in Japanese, most of the time. In some cases it simply refers to a girl or girls.


The word musume written with kanji is musume 娘.

This kanji is generally read as musume, but it can be read as jou sometimes. Also, in certain words it's read as ko 娘 instead because the word is actually ko, "child," but the kanji implies it's a girl.

Like the word musuko, musume comes from the verb musu 生す, meaning to spawn, to give birth to something, to make something grow out of nothing, etc. Except that musume ends in me. This me of musume is the same morpheme as the one found in the word megami 神, "goddess."


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 musume does not. Why is that? Why musume 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 musume doesn't have a san, but the words for "father" and "mother," otousan and okaasan, do.

Note, however, that the word musumesan 娘さん does exist. Because when you're speaking about other people, in this case, other people's daughters, then using the honorific is a sign of respect. Based on this, musume is often your own daughter, while musumesan is pretty much always someone else's daughter.


Sometimes the word musume 娘 comes after the word mago 孫, which means "grandchild," turning into magomusume 孫娘. This magomusume means "granddaughter" instead of the neutral "grandchild."

Musume Girls

In English we don't call every woman "daughter" just because every woman is somebody's daughter. In Japanese, however....that's kind of possible.

What happens is that a musume can refer to a girl. Like... any girl. You might as well translate musume as "girl" instead of "daughter" in this case. This is generally not used toward older women, only younger women, teenagers, etc. whom you'd associate with the idea of "daughter." Some dictionaries claim the musume must be unmarried, so maybe "missy" would be a better translation?

In anime, it's often the case where, if such a girl does something, and there's a villain that doesn't like it, the villain will exclaim something along the lines of:
  • ano musume! あの娘!
    That girl! [Darn her!]
  • ano komusume! あの小娘!
    That little girl! [Darn her!]

There's also a practice of labeling girls by a certain attribute that uses the tern musume this way.

Something + Musume

In Japanese, saying something plus musume 娘 is the formula to describe a type of girl. Sometimes, kko っ娘 is used instead. There are words used in Real Life that follow this pattern, but it's specially used in anime and manga discussion, where there are countless features for countless girls of countless trashy harem anime.

For example, a meganekko メガネっ娘 or meganemusume メガネ娘 is a girl that wears "glasses," megane メガネ. A nekomusume 猫娘 is a "catgirl." A monstaa musume モンスター娘 is a "monster girl." And so on.

(see types of kko girls for a partial list)
Family Words

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