And kanji with manga
Monday, April 23, 2018

お祖父さん, お爺さん, Ojiisan - Meaning in Japanese

The word ojiisan means "grandfather" in Japanese. (but sometimes refers to an elder man). It's also romanized ojīsan, with a macron. Not to be confused with ojisan without a macron, which means "uncle" instead.

It's one of the many family words with the o__san お〇〇さん pattern, and as such the honorific suffix can be changed between san, chan and sama. (see ojiichan vs. ojiisan vs. ojiisama)


The word ojiisan written with kanji is ojiisan お祖父さん or ojiisan お爺さん. It's a word that can be written with multiple, different kanji, and the meaning of the word differs according to the kanji it's written with.

The sama 様 suffix and the o 御 prefix are only sometimes written with kanji. In which case you can have a word written written like this: ojiisama 御祖父様.


When written as ojiisan お祖父さん the word refers to your "grandfather," the father of one of your parents.


When written as ojiisan お爺さん the word doesn't refer to someone related to you but to a random elder man instead.


It's interesting to note that not everybody knows for sure the difference between these spellings, just like some people aren't very sure about "it's" vs. "its". So, in order to avoid making an unnecessary mistake, people tend to play safe and write the word without kanji instead, as ojiisan おじいさん.


When ojiisan おじいさん is written without kanji it's sometimes spelled with a prolonged sound mark ー instead, as ojiisan おじーさん. This is usually done when child characters talk, to denote they speak in a particular way.


The word ojiichan means the same thing as ojiisan, "grandfather."

The difference between ojiisan and ojiichan おじいちゃん is that ojiichan is a cozier word. It can imply a more friendly, relaxed, or intimate relationship between the speaker and the ojiichan.


The word ojiisama means the same thing as ojiisan, "grandfather."

The difference between ojiisan and ojiisama おじいさま is that ojiisama has more reverence. In anime, this often implies that the character is from a traditional family (often rich $$$) which believes children must address their parents, grandparents, etc. with respect.

In some cases, it can imply the speaker has admiration or esteem toward their grandfather.

Jiisan, Jiichan, Jiisama

Sometimes the word is pronounced without the o prefix. This is just a more informal way of saying it.
  • jiisan 祖父さん
  • jiichan 祖父ちゃん
  • jiisama 祖父さま

Ojiisan vs. Sofu

The difference between ojiisan and sofu 祖父, which also means "grandfather," and has the same kanji but they're read differently, is that ojiisan has honorifics and sofu does not.

In Japanese, you normally don't use honorifics toward yourself. By extension, sofu would be your grandfather, while ojiisan, etc. other people's grandfathers. An exception is when you're talking about your grandfather to someone in your family, then using ojiisan is alright.

Also note that in anime, with children, teenagers, talking to their friends in school, the conversation is more relaxed so the norms above don't really apply.

Toward Elder Men

Sometimes the word ojiisan お爺さん refers not to your "grandfather" but to an elder man instead. This works just like how in English we can use the word "grandpa" to refer to elder men.

The word ojisan, "uncle," is used similarly toward adult men, and oniisan, "older brother," may be used toward young men and teenagers.

When the word is used like this, it sometimes comes after the demonstrative pronouns kono, sono, ano.
  • ano ojiisan あのおじいさん
    That grandpa.

Ojiisan vs. Ojisan

The difference between ojiisan and ojisan is that one word means "grandfather" while the other "uncle." Note that ojīsan with a macron over the i means something else.

It may seem like nothing, but the jii of ojiisan is twice as long as the ji of ojisan. It's almost nothing, but it's there.

Ojiisan vs. Ojīsan

The difference between ojiisan and ojīsan, with a macron, is merely that they're different romaji for the same word.

This happens because long vowels, found in syllables like ii いい and ii いー, may be romanized with a macron instead of two vowel letters.

So ojiisan and ojīsan are the same thing, but ojiisan and ojisan are not, and ojisan and ojīsan are not either.

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