Thursday, April 26, 2018

ossan おっさん, Meaning in Japanese, Origin, Examples

In Japanese, ossan おっさん means "old man," or "middle-aged man." This isn't a polite word, so it's either used to refer to an old man in a cozy, friendly way, or in a rude, derogatory way. It's also spelled ossan オッサン, オッさん.


The "middle age" is "the period after early adulthood and before old age, about 45 to 65 [years old]," according to the Oxford dictionary, however, Japanese dictionaries say you become an ossan after your 30's, much earlier than you'd become a middle-aged man in English.

Of course, it may be used toward someone younger, but that would be like calling them old.


The word ossan originates in ojisan おじさん(デジタル大辞), which means "uncle," but may also refer to a man of certain age. The word ossan, however, never means uncle, it inherited only the latter meaning, "old man."


The word ossan is used to refer to men of certain age, just like ojisan.

Since ossan is a bastardization of ojisan, it's more casual than ojisan and lacks the level of respect that ojisan would have.

Someone can use ossan to be disrespectful, rude, toward an old man they don't like, who doesn't deserve their respect.

Or they can use ossan because they're close, buddies, friends, and formalities aren't necessary.

Sometimes ossan is qualified by the demonstrative pronouns kono, sono, ano, like this:

  • ano ossan!
    That old man!
  • kono ossan!
    This old man! (literally)
    You old man!

Like with ojisan, sometimes in anime the word ossan is used toward a young man in his 20's, or, if the speaker is a little child, toward someone even younger.

In this case the ossan in question may take offense and correct the speaker, telling him to use onisan お兄さん instead, which means "older brother," but may be used to refer to young men.

Manga: Fullmetal Alchemist, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi 鋼の錬金術師 (Chapter 8, 希望の道)
  • Context: Alex Louis Armstrong アレックス・ルイ・アームストロング accompanies Edward Elric エドワード・エルリック.
  • nande
    kono ossan ga
    tsuite-kuru-n-da yo........

    Why is this old man coming with [me].........
じゃーね まるでダメなオッさん 略してマダオ!
Manga: Gintama 銀魂 (Chapter 16)
  • Context: Kagura 神楽 nicknames Hasegawa Taizou 長谷川泰三.
  • jaa ne
    [See ya later].
  • marude dame na ossan
    Completely useless old man.
  • ryaku shite, madao!
    略して マダオ!
    Abbreviate it: MADAO!


The word ossan doesn't have kanji, being spelled with hiragana or with katakana only.


A nonstandard ateji 当て字 spelling ossan 汚っさん is a wordplay. It means:

  • kitanai ossan
    Filthy old man.


Family Words

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