And kanji with manga
Friday, April 20, 2018

oneesan お姉さん

In Japanese, oneesan お姉さん means "older sister," and sometimes refers to a young girl.

It's also romanized onēsan, with a macron for the long vowel.

The younger counterpart is imouto, "young sister." The male counterparts are oniisan お兄さん and otouto, "older brother" and "younger brother," respectively.

Kanji

The word oneesan is normally written with kanji, as お姉さん.

The kanji of oneesan means "older sister," ane.

Sometimes, oneesan is spelled with hiragana instead, as おねえさん, or おねさん, specially if it's a small child saying it, due to aesthetics.

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.

The affixes o~ and ~sama can be spelled with kanji for added formality. This rarely happens, however.

o~
Default.

Relaxed.
~sama
Respectful.
Distant.
Formal.
oneesama
お姉さま
おねえさま
おねーさま
お姉様
御姉様
neesama
姉さま
ねえさま
ねーさま
姉様
~san
Default.
oneesan
お姉さん
おねえさん
おねーさん
neesan
姉さん
ねえさん
ねーさん
~chan
Chummier.
Diminutive.
oneechan
お姉ちゃん
おねえちゃん
おねーちゃん
neechan
姉ちゃん
ねえちゃん
ねーちゃん

Relaxed.
onee
お姉
おねえ
おねー
nee

ねえ
ねー

Beware: the word onee オネエ spelled with katakana is an LGBT slang.

See onee-kotoba オネエ言葉 for details.

Meaning

The word oneesan means "older sister," "elder sister," in the sense of someone who is your sister, and who is older than you.

It doesn't mean "oldest sister." If you have two older sisters, they're both oneesan for you.

  • {ichiban ue no} oneesan
    一番上のお姉さん
    The older sister [that] {is most above}. (literally.)
    The oldest older sister.
  • choushi
    長姉
    Eldest sister.
    • nagai
      長い
      Long. (distance, time.)
  • choujo
    長女
    Eldest daughter [of a family].

The word oneesan is sometimes translated to English as "big sister," or oneechan as a chummier "big sis." The size of your sister has nothing to do with word. Your oneesan can be smaller than you.

  • {ooki na} oneesan
    大きなお姉さん
    A {big} oneesan.

Toward Young Women

In Japanese, some family words can be used to refer to random people whom aren't actually related to you. The word oneesan can refer to a random "young woman."

This is similar to how you can call a random old woman a "grandma," in Japanese, too: obaachan おばあちゃん, even if she isn't your grandmother.

Another word that can mean "young woman" is ojousan お嬢さん, "daughter." In this case, it's closer to "little girl," so it's more likely to refer to a small child.

An adult woman can be called both ojousan and oneesan, specially if the speaker is someone older.

The diminutive variants, ojouchan and oneechan, can sound patronizing or intimate, e.g. if you have a character who is a drunk creep hitting on a girl, he's probably going to call her oneechan.

In anime, it's typical for a high school girl character to get called oneesan by some random little kid. It makes sense to think of this like this: if the kid had an older sister, she would be around the same age as that girl, so the girl is like an oneesan (in age) for the kid.

頭いい!!お姉ちゃん天才!?ふふ・・・・・・まぁね
Manga: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen~ かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Chapter 9, かぐや様は歩きたい)
  • Context: a random boy compliments a random unrelated older girl.
  • atama φ ii!!
    頭いい!!
    [Wow, you're so] smart!!
  • oneechan φ tensai!?
    お姉ちゃん天才!?
    [Are you] a genius, big sis!?
  • fufu......
    ふふ・・・・・・
    *chuckle*
  • maa ne
    まぁね
    [Sort of].
    [I guess.]
あっ 白血球のお兄ちゃんいたよ! あっ 赤血球のおねーちゃん!
Manga: Hataraku Saibou はたらく細胞 (Collage)
  • Context: a "platelet," kesshouban 血小板, drawn as a cute anime girl, referring to other cells.
  • a', {hakkekkyuu no} oniisan ita yo!
    あっ 白血球のお兄さんいたよ!
    Ah, big brother {white blood cell} [is over there]!
    (appositive no-adjective.)
  • a', {sekkekkyuu no} oneechan!
    あっ 赤血球のおねーちゃん
    Ah, big sis {red blood cell}!

Honorific

The word oneesan can be used as a honorific suffix after someone's name. Doing this calls the person an oneesan.

じゃあイカ姉ちゃん ボクに算数教えてよ! 別にいいでゲソよ
Manga: Shinryaku! Ika Musume 侵略!イカ娘 (Chapter 28, 勉強しなイカ?)
  • Context: a young boy asks a squid girl for help with his studies.
  • jaa Ika-neechan, boku ni sansuu oshiete yo!
    じゃあイカ姉ちゃん ボクに算数教えて
    Then, big sis Ika, teach me arithmetic!
    • neechan - older sister, may also be used toward young women whom one's not related to, specially used by children toward any girl older than them.
  • See laughter lines and realization mark for the symbols over the characters' heads.
  • betsu ni ii degeso yo
    別にいいでゲソよ
    [I don't mind doing it].
    • degeso - a nonstandard gobi 語尾 used by this character instead of desu です, a wordplay on the fact she's a squid and geso 下足 means "squid tentacles."

vs. Ane

The difference between oneesan and ane 姉, which also means "older sister," and has the same kanji but they're read differently, is that oneesan has honorifics, but ane does not.

Since you don't use honorifics toward yourself, when talking to other people about your family, you use ane 姉 to refer to your older sister, and oneesan お姉さん to refer to their older sister.

However, when talking to your own family, oneesan refers to your own older sister.

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