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Monday, April 23, 2018

obaasan お祖母さん, お婆さん

In Japanese, obaasan おばあさん means "grandmother," and sometimes refers to an elder woman.

It's also romanized obāsan, with a macron. Not to be confused with obasan おばさん, without a macron, which means "aunt" instead.

Kanji

The word obaasan can be written with kanji in two different ways, depending on the meaning of the word:

  • obaasan
    お祖母さん
    Grandmother.
  • obaasan
    お婆さん
    Elder woman.

Variants

With family words in o__san お〇〇さん pattern, the o~ お~ prefix can be removed, and the honorific suffix can be changed between ~san ~さん, ~chan ~ちゃん, and ~sama ~さま.

  • obaachan
    おばあちゃん
    (chummier.)
  • baachan
    ばあちゃん
    (same meaning.)
  • obaasama
    おばあさま
    (more respectful.)

The baa ばあ syllable has a long vowel and may be spelled baa instead.

  • obaasan
    おばーさん
    Grandmother.

vs. 祖母

The difference between obaasan and sobo 祖母, which also means "grandmother," and has the same kanji but they're read differently, is that obaasan has honorifics, but sobo does not.

Since you don't use honorifics toward yourself, when talking to other people about your family, you use sobo 祖母 to refer to your grandmother, and obaasan お祖母さん to refer to their grandmother.

However, when talking to your own family, obaasan refers to your own grandmother.

Toward Elder Women

The word obaasan お婆さん can also refer not to your "grandmother" but to an elder woman instead. This works just like how in English we can use the words "grandma" or "granny" to refer to elder women.

The word obasan, "aunt," is used similarly toward adult women, and oneesan, "older sister," may be used toward young women and teenagers.

When the word is used like this, it sometimes comes after the demonstrative pronouns kono, sono, ano.

  • ano obaasan
    あのおばあさん
    That grandma.
    That granny.

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