• Japan Tips

How to Say Sister in Japanese

Japanese is a beautiful and complex language, containing many unique words and phrases used in different situations in your daily life. There are even 21+ ways to say that you love someone or say hello

An especially well-known example of this is the variety of words used to talk about your sister in Japanese. Whatever stage you are at in your language learning journey, keep reading to learn the key differences between 8 words for sister and when to use them. 


Why are there different words for sister in Japanese?

Essentially, the words for sister in Japanese heavily depend on family relationships. This is something which can be said for other languages. For example in English, you likely would not refer to your sister-in-law as your sister. 


However, this can vary from family to family in relation to how close you are to said individuals. Similarly, some people may call their step-parents “mum” and “dad”, and others may not. 


Additionally, it can change in relation to the age of the relative or close friend, as different words signal different levels of respect in Japanese.


Group learning the Japanese word for sister


What are the different ways you can say sister in Japanese?

You have more than likely come across them before on Japanese language learning apps. However, we know it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which words to use in different situations. That is why we have compiled all of the different words for sister in one place for you to refer to any time you get stuck.


1. Ane 

姉 / あね


Ane is a casual term used to refer to your own older sister


For example: Watashi no ane wa se ga takai.






My older sister is tall.


2. Oneesan 

お姉さん or おねえさん


Following on from Ane, Oneesan is the more formal term for your older sister. However, it can also be used to refer to someone else’s sister. In this context, it can take on the meaning of young lady, ma’am or miss


For example: Anata wa oneesan ni sokkuri desu.






You look just like your older sister. 


Sisters playing in the snow


3. Imouto 

妹 or いもうと


In contrast, Imouto is used when you are referring to your younger sister.


For example: Watashi wa imouto ga hitori imasu.






I have a younger sister.



 4. Aneki 

あねき or アネキ


Similarly to oneesan, aneki is used to refer to an older sister. However, it is used to refer to someone else’s sister as opposed to yours. It can also be used when you are talking about an older woman who you are not related to, but still respect


 5. Aneue 

姉上 or あねうえ


Similarly, aneue is used to describe your older sister. However, it is not used when referring to siblings in modern-day language. Instead, it is considered archaic and can be found within period literature or historical texts. 



6. Giri no Ane/Imouto 

Giri no Ane: ぎりのあね  or ぎりのあね 


Giri no Imouto: 義理の妹 or ぎりのいもうと


When it comes to Japanese in-laws, there are two different ways to say sister-in-law depending on who you are referring to. Your older sister-in-law is called your giri no ane, and your younger sister-in-law would be your giri no imouto.


For example: 


Watashi wa giri no ane ga imasu.


わたし は ぎりのあね が います。


I have an older sister-in-law.


7. Anegohada 

姐御肌 or あねごはだ


When using anegohada, you generally describe someone who has sisterly instincts and naturally cares for others, as opposed to a relative. 



8. Shimai

姉妹 or しまい, きょうだい


Unlike the others, Shimai is used to describe “sisters” in a plural sense. This can not only be used to describe your own sisters but other peoples’ sisters as well. 


For example: 


Kanojo ni wa shimai ga 3-ri ari






She has three sisters: one is a nurse and the others are teachers.


Whatever your reasons for settling in or visiting Japan, our guide will help make sure you are using the correct terms when referring to your biological or spiritual sister. Get in touch with us today for more help on Japanese social customs, careers and more.


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