Friday, May 4, 2018

Okusama 奥様

In Japanese, okusama means "wife." It's kind of synonymous with tsuma 妻, but that word is often used more literally, like a "wife," while okusama may be used to refer to a "wife" person, like "my wife" or "your wife."

Kanji

The word okusama written with kanji is okusama 奥様. It's written with the sama 様 honorific suffix, and oku 奥, which means the "inner part" of something, or a deeper part in caves, etc.

The variant okusan 奥さん also exists. Obviously oku 奥 alone isn't used to refer to one's wife since it's already a word, "inner part." You need a honorific suffix, okusan, okusama, for it to mean "wife."

In hiragana:
  • okusan おくさん
  • okusama おくさま

Origin

The reason for the oku in okusama seems to be because, in the past, wives of nobility usually stayed in rooms deeper inside nobles' homes. (reference: 奥様 - gogen-allguide.com). This probably meant the husband did business in rooms closer to the entrance, so if someone came by to discuss something, he wouldn't usually see the wife, who would be in a room more to the back.

A related word would oooku 大奥, (yes, that's three o's), which would refer to the palace's inner chambers, the ladies' chambers, during the Edo period. In other words: the palace's harem, where the Shogun's wife, combines, and other related women stayed. (rumor is it it used to house thousands of women. Thousands! The shogun is the original harem MC!)

Usage

Basically, okusama refer to one's wife. Plain and simple. Nothing very interesting about it. Note, however, that there are other terms that also mean "wife" in Japanese. Like kanai 家内, kamisan かみさん, etc. Even the word okaasan お母さん, which normally means "mother," may refer to one's wife at times.

In anime, it's common for servants, maids, butlers, etc. to use okusama to refer to the "wife" of the household. This usage is similar to the term goshujinsama ご主人様, which may be used toward the "husband" of the household. That is: the okusama is the goshujinsama's wife.

A butler and maid saying okusama in the manga Hunter x Hunter and Bocchan to Maid 坊っちゃんとメイド


In particular, in maid café, the staffers, maids, who usually address to clients as goshujinsama, may address to the woman in a couple of clients as the okusama.

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