And kanji with manga
Thursday, May 3, 2018

goshujinsama ご主人様

In Japanese, goshujinsama ご主人様 means the "master" of a servant, in anime, mostly of a maid. The word may also refer to the "owner" of a house or shop, to one's "husband," or to a pet's "owner."


The word goshujinsama written with kanji is ご主人様. Its kanji are the one for "lord," aruji 主, plus "person," hito 人, and two honorifics: the o 御 prefix and the sama 様 suffix.

Since it kind of spells "lord person," you can guess from the kanji the word means someone important. A similar word, shujinkou 主人公, means "protagonist," for example.

Spellings of goshujinsama include:
  • goshujinsama ご主人様
  • goshujinsama ご主人さま
  • goshujinsama 御主人様 (extra-formal, rarer)
  • goshujinsama ごしゅじんさま (hiragana only, extremely unlikely)

The word has honorifics on both sides, so it's in the o__san お〇〇さん pattern. But since the latter honorific is sama, it's a word that implies utmost reverence.

For the "master" meaning seen in anime, only sama is ever used. For the "husband" and "owner" meaning, goshujin ご主人. The variant goshujinsan ご主人さん isn't used as frequently.


Most of the time, in anime, the word goshujinsama is translated as "master," in the sense of "master whom one serves," which consequently is what this post is mostly about.

This meaning, "master," is actually the original meaning of the word shujin, as its kanji imply. The "master" or "lord of a servants, retainer, etc. is their shujin, and an extra-reverent way to refer to such shujin is goshujinsama.

Note that the "master" translation of goshujinsama is always the master of a servant. This is not to be confused with other masters, like:
  • sensei 先生
    Master who teaches. A teacher.
    Master who arts. An arter artist.
    Master who medicines. A medicinist doctor.
  • tatsujin 達人
    Master who has "reaches," tassuru 達する, a highly advanced level in something.
    (see the main cast of Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Ken'ichi 史上最強の弟子ケンイチ)
  • meijin 名人
    Master who excels at something.
    (in the past, a "title," meishou 名称, bestowed to the best.)
  • masutaa マスター
    (katakanization, often refers to the "master" of a bar, or to master degrees.)
  • shishou 師匠
    Master of disciples.
    (in anime, often of martial arts.)

Maid's "Master"

Specifically, the word goshujinsama is overwhelmingly used to refer to a maid's "master" in anime, the man whom the maid serves. It's used so much this way we can't really talk about the word goshujinsama without talking about maids. But I guess that's only really because anime has tons of maids.

Ohayou gozaimasu goshujinsama おはようございますご主人様, phrase spoken by maids in the manga Kore ga Watashi no Goshujinsama これが私の御主人様

To be honest, it isn't really necessary for a maid to refer to their employer as goshujinsama. The reason it's done so often in anime, particularly in ecchi and harem anime, is probably because of the implied naughtiness of calling somebody "master."

It'd be tough for authors to create a situation where a girl calls somebody "master" that doesn't seem very awkward and out of place. But maid characters can just say the word over and over and it kinda fits. Once authors realized that, the maid-goshujinsama combo got set in stone.

But why would maids naturally use this "naughty" word in first place? It's complicated. It has to do with the multiple other meanings of goshujinsama that I'll explain through this post.

"Owner" of the House

The word goshujinsama may also refer to the "head" of a household, the proprietor of a property, "the owner of the house," the "master" of a mansion, etc.

But because goshujinsama is a honorific sandwich the simpler shujin 主人 may be used instead, although normally goshujin ご主人, with just one honorific, is used since it's related to other people and it's normal to add honorifics when talking about other people.

dai ichi, anta ga kimeru koto ja nai desho, kono ie no goshujin wa doko? First of all, it's not something [for] you [to] decide, is it? Where's the owner of this house? Quote of manga Kore ga Watashi no Goshujinsama これが私の御主人様

Maid note: so when a maid said goshujinsama, she could be implying not her master directly, as a sign of fealty, but the master of the house where she serves indirectly, as per contract.

Shop "Owner"

Just like shujin, etc. can refer to the "owner" of a house, it may also refer to the "owner" of a establishment. A shop "owner."


Sometimes, goshujinsama may mean "husband" in Japanese, but note that since the words goshujinsama ご主人様 and goshujin ご主人 have honorifics, they aren't used toward your own husband, only toward other people's husbands. The term shujin 主人, without honorifics, may be used to say "my husband."

Given this, a more literal translation of goshujinsama would be "lord" instead. In English, the word lord refers to the lord whom one serves, who happens to be lord of a property, lord of a house, and is historically male, so the man of the house, consequently, lord in English may also refer to one's husband. And this is similar to how the word shujin works.

The difference being I have literally never seen "lord" being used in English to refer to one's husband, but the dictionary says so, so I guess it's been used so, once, in the archaic historical past, meanwhile goshujinsama is still use to refer to somebody's "husband" in present-day modern Japanese. There are other words which can be used to say "husband," but goshujinsama, goshujin, shujin are still in use.

Some people consider shujin to be a sexist term given that it refers to one's "husband" but it originates in "lord," implying wives are servants. Most people, however, do not care about this.
  • goshujin imasuka? ご主人いますか?
    goshujinsama irasshaimasuka? ご主人様いらっしゃいますか?
    Is [your] husband [home]?
    Is [your] master [home]?
    Is the master [of this home in]?

Maid note: so when a maid said goshujinsama, she could be referring to the "husband" of the house where she serves. "I'll go get the goshujinsama," could imply "I'll go get the husband." It's also common for maids to refer to the master's wife as literally "wife," okusama 奥様. So "I saw goshujinsama and okusama" ends up meaning "I saw the husband and the wife of this mansion where I work."

Okaerinasaimase Goshujinsama

In manga and anime which do not feature recurrent maid characters, sometimes the cast goes to a maid café and they're greeted with a okaerinasaimase goshujinsama お帰りなさいませ、御主人様, an extra-polite way of saying "welcome home, master."

okaerinasaimase goshujinsama, "welcome back [home], master," douzo goshujinsama kochira no seki e, "[come] to this seat, if you will, master." Quote from manga Welcome to the N.H.K. / NHK ni Youkoso NHKにようこそ!

Now I'm sure you have many questions about this, but let's get this one cleared first: maid cafés exist in Real Life™. They aren't just a some random weird crap anime made up from nothing once, like a sport where you fight using only your boobs and butt. It actually exists.

Most people can't really afford an cute maid 24/7 in their lives. They aren't made out of money. However, they can afford the experience of being made out of money and having a cute dream-like maid serve them for a while. And this is what the service is about. Capitalism, ho!

In this service, the maid addresses you as goshujinsama, but note that the goshujinsama is the lord of the house where the maid serves, and the maid serves at the café, ergo, the goshujinsama is the lord of the café, and you're the goshujinsama, therefore you're the lord of the café, you're the lord of your property, your house, your home, consequently, this implies the café is your home.

That is why they say "welcome home" or "welcome back" in maid cafés, because it implies you're returning to your home, where your maid is.

By the way, sometimes obocchama お坊ちゃま, "young master," is used in such cafés toward younger clients, boys, children whom are brought to the café.

Female Goshujinsama

Generally speaking, goshujinsama is used toward men only. Specially given it's historically a male word. It's technically gender neutral and may be used toward women, but normally that doesn't happen, so it's practically male only.

In some maid cafés, for example, women may be greeted as goshujinsama just like male customers, or, if they're children, daughters, ojousama お嬢様, which's a term often associated with the "daughter" of a rich family, or maybe okusama 奥様, "wife."

okaerinasaimase goshujinsama~ & ojousama~, "Welcom back [home] master~ & young lady~" Tooru-sama mitai na hito ippai! [There's] a lot of people like Tohru-sama! Quote from manga Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon 小林さんちのメイドラゴン

However, some women may find it weird to be called goshujinsama as it's mostly a male word. In butler cafés, which also exist, by the way, the clients, women, get mostly called ojousama お嬢様 instead, as it may refer to a young woman too.

okaerinasaimase ojousama, "welcome back [home] young lady." Shitsuji kissa de hataraite iru koto, "working at a butler café." Quote from manga Kaichou wa Maid-sama 会長はメイド様!

Note that onna-shujin 女主人, literally "female master," would be the literal female version of shujin. But since it doesn't sound as nice as ojousama no café would use that word.

In BDSM, joousama 女王様, "queen," is the female counterpart of goshujinsama.

BDSM "Master"

In the Japanese BDSM subculture, the term goshujinsama may refer to one's "master" in a master-slave relationship. Meanwhile, joousama 女王様, "queen," is used for a female goshujinsama, a mistress.

arigatou gozaimasu goshujinsama ありがとうございますご主人様, quote from manga Nana to Kaoru ナナとカオル

The counterpart, "slave," would be dorei 奴隷. So "master and slave" is goshujinsama to dorei ご主人様と奴隷, "mistress and slave," joousama to dorei 女王様と奴隷.

Maid note: so with this all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

So goshujinsama was originally used by maids toward the "master" of the mansion, or in reference to the "husband" of the household. A very decent, very pure, very innocent word. But when it comes to ecchi anime and its S&M-savvy audience, the term goshujinsama starts implying something else, less decent, less pure, and less innocent.

From this you could say some fans like the word goshujinsama because it implies they're rich and powerful, so much they can afford mansions and maids and stuff, and it's a word that infers status, like saying "king" or something, while some other fans like the word just because it implies S&M.

Figurative "Master"

Reminder: just like in English, words can be used figuratively in Japanese.

That is, sometimes goshujinsama refers to someone who is not literally their "master." Not literally someone whom they serve, nor literally someone they're in a BDSM relationship with.

For example, in Tokyo Ghoul, there's a scene involving torture, and the torturer one time gets sarcastically referred to as goshujinsama. Does this means somebody's freakish ship suddenly got canon?! NO!!! It's a quip! It's figurative! It doesn't mean anything!

goshujinsama ga kita wa yo, "Master" came [back, look]. Quote from manga Tokyo Ghoul, torture scene

Pet's "Owner"

Another use of goshujinsama found in manga and anime is when an animal says goshujinsama to refer to their "owner." This follows the same servant logic, but it ends up being a master-pet instead of master-servant.

I say "found in manga and anime" because, as it turns out, animals don't actually speak Japanese, so they wouldn't really say goshujinsama in Real Life™.

Of course, this usage also exists elsewhere, like in pictures of cats on the internet, or of dogs, where someone writes something they want to believe the animal would say, like: "master is coming home! Master is coming home! *bark bark*" (I realize now nobody would use this term with cats because cats are assholes who wouldn't lower themselves to calling their owners "master.")

Or, also, when someone is talking to a dog, asking where their owner is. Not very useful, really, since dogs can't speak Japanese.

Panel saying フフフ… おまえ、ご主人は どうした? どこかへ 行ってしまった のか…? from manga Zatch Bell!
Manga: Zatch Bell!! / Konjiki no Gash Bell!! 金色のガッシュベル!!
— Chapter 7
  • fufufu フフフ…
  • omae, goshujin wa
    おまえ、ご主人は どうした?
    You, [what happened to] (where is) your owner?
  • doko ka e
    itte shimatta
    no ka...?

    どこかへ 行ってしまった のか…?
    Did [he] go somewhere?

A more literal word for "owner of a pet" would be kainushi 飼い主, from the verb kau 飼う, "to keep a pet," and nushi 主, which, like aruji 主, and shujin 主人, may also mean "master."

(reminder: in Japanese a woman's "husband" and a pet's "owner" are the same word, which some people consider sexist, but I swear a lot of people DO NOT CARE about this.)

Summon's "Master"

Sometimes, a summoned champion in League of Legends, hero, monster, creature, demon, familiar, etc. may refer to their summoner as goshujinsama, as they're the ones giving the orders and stuff.

Anta wa watashi no "tsukaima" nano yo!? Goshujinsama no meirei nara donna koto demo yorokonde suru...... "inu" nano yo!! You are my "familiar," [get it]? When it comes to [your] master's orders whatever it is [you] rejoice and do it...... a "dog," [get it]?!

Note that, in the Fate series, the heroic spirits use the term masutaa マスター, a katakanization of "master," to refer to their summoners instead of goshujinsama. Despite having the same translation, it's a different word.

(reminder: in Japanese a woman's "husband" and a filthy spawn summoned from the seventh circle of hell's "lord" are the same word, which some people consider to be sexist, but... you know what, I'm beginning to think this word may be a wee bit sexist.)

Call Me "Master"

It's kind of a trope to have a character tell another character to "call me goshujinsama," or, goshujinsama to yobe ご主人様と呼べ, which's the exact equivalent of saying "call me master" in English.

Psychologically speaking, the words remind the servant they're a servant, and the master they're a master.

And of course not all of these "servants" want to be servants. So saying goshujinsama this way is often considered embarrassing, not say humiliating, specially considering the BDSM-related pandering, and normally you wouldn't want to say it, which is obvious from the fact someone is trying to make you say it.

If you were fine with saying goshujinsama nobody would need to tell you to say goshujinsama, would they? I mean, there are characters which gladly say goshujinsama and are happy to serve their masters, but that's not always the case.

Often, this "call me goshujinsama" stuff happens when a character ends up becoming a maid due to dramatic circumstances, like a sudden immense debt sometimes related to the accidental breaking of expensive vases, or their parents dying somehow. They don't want to be a servant, maid, they just need the money, and the roof, and the three meals a day.

In some cases, "call me goshujinsama" may happen as result of a punishment game, as outcome for losing a bet or challenge.

sore kara omaera, ore no koto wo yobu toki wa, "goshujinsama" ka Yoshitaka-sama to yobe. Besides that, you [girls]. When you call me, call [me] "Master" or Yoshitaka-sama. Sore ja ore ga kattara sono fuku wo kite ore no koto wo goshujinsama to yobunda na. Then if I win [you'll] wear those clothes and call me master, right? Sono kawari shouhai ni kankei naku kiru shi, chanto goshujinsama to yobimasu kara. In exchange for that, no matter who wins, I'll these clothes [and] properly call [you] master. Quote from manga Kore ga Watashi no Goshujinsama これが私の御主人様

Of course, this form of obvious harassment is only seen as playful, silly antics because we're talking about ecchi harem romantic comedies whose main audience is boys, shounen, here. If it was an edgier anime it'd definitely be part of some sort of awful, terrible bullying.

Like, in Kakegurui 賭ケグルイ, there's an "wtf is this edgelord bullshit?" sort of systematic school bullying where losers in gambling may end up getting turned into animals, not literally, socially, and one such loser gets called pochi ポチ, "spot," a common and unimaginative name for dogs, during his sub-human days.

So in the story above a master-pet status was implied by calling the bullied pochi. In some other story, it could be implied by having the bullied character call his bully goshujinsama.

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  1. I'm very amazed that you're still posting this much content. I initially thought you're Japanese because of how detailed your posts are but surprisingly, the disclaimer says you're just learning as well. So impressive! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!