If you want to learn how to say girl in Japanese, then you’ve come to the right place. I’m not only going to tell you how, but I’m probably going to overload you with all of the different ways to do so too!
Unlike English, the Japanese language can be precise (excruciatingly so at times) with the words that it uses. For example, in English we only have the one word for “I” when speaking about oneself. But Japanese literally has dozens!
It’s a similar situation with girls. Today I’m going to share 13 Japanese words with you that you can use to say girl!
For a lot of these types of words, the nuances often get lost when translating them into English. That’s why there are so many to go over today, you’re going to get a look at how each one is different.
Using 女 For Girl
The Japanese word 女 (onna) means “woman; girl” and can be a little ambiguous since it really means “female” more that a specific age of the lady in question.
That’s why a distinction is often made with this word. For adult women, it is usually extended out to the word 女の人 (onna no hito) which literally says “an adult female.”
Knowing this, you can probably guess how to form the word for “a child female” in Japanese. It is 女の子 (onna no ko) and is usually the first word that people learn for girl in Japanese when they start studying the language.
This word can actually be shortened to just 女子 (joshi) by removing that の particle and it still retains its meaning of girl. To make matters even more confusing, you can also flip these kanji to form the word 子女 (jisho) which can also meaning girl!
I like to keep things simple when speaking and writing in Japanese, so I recommend sticking to 女の子 over these last two options, but there is another word that is actually more common to hear in Japanese.
The word is 少女 (shoujo) and refers to a little girl, but the age range is kind of wide at 7 to 18 years old. This word gets used a lot in anime, and it also happens to be a genre of anime and manga, so you’ll get a lot out of understanding what it means.
The final word that I want to go over in this section is 乙女 (otome) which is very similar to the English word “maiden.” It’s not a super common word, but in certain contexts it makes sense to use it.
Compound Words With 女
A compound word is when you take two separate words and combine them to form a new, third word. In English, there are people who skate for fun. Some of the do so on a board. Thus, we have the compound word skateboard.
In Japanese, one such word is 女生徒 (joseito) which means schoolgirl and combines our earlier kanji for female with the Japanese word for student.
The next word is related to the Japanese word for “beautiful” which is 美しい (utsukushii). What they’ve done is taken that initial kanji and attached it to a word for girl to form 美少女 (bishoujo) which means “beautiful girl” in Japanese.
Lastly, we can talk about “magical girls” which is a pretty common thing in Japan with shows like Sailor Moon and Madoka Magica. The Japanese word for these kinds of girls is 魔法少女 (mahou shoujo) which uses our word for 7-18 year old girls and combines it with the word for magic.
When “Daughter” Means Girl
One of the Japanese words for daughter (yes, there are many!) is 娘 (musume). But this word can also be used in another context where it doesn’t actually refer to someone’s daughter, but instead refers to a young, unmarried woman.
Similarly, the word お嬢さん (ojousan) means “young lady” in Japanese, and also has that connotation of a girl who is currently single. That being said, this word has kind of a fancy feel to it.
I usually hear it from a butler talking to the young lady he serves. Because of this, お嬢さん or any of its various forms (like 嬢ちゃん) gets used in Japanese like “rich girl” would in English.
Similar to the first word in this section, the Japanese word for older sister is (onēsan) お姉さん and it can be used to address a lady, someone in her teens to young adult age, when you don’t know her name.
The English Loan Word
The last word that I want to cover in this post comes from the English language and it is ガール (gāru). This word literally says “girl” in Japanese and is a loan word.
I don’t hear this word all that often, except for maybe in the other Japanese word ガールフレンド (gāru furendo) which means “girlfriend” of course.
But I just wanted to throw it in here for fun.
Is That Really it?
For the most part, you should be good now. There are still more Japanese words that can be used when talking about girls, but you should know enough so that you understand nearly all of the situations where people are talking about girls.
I’m sure that with the information learned here, you will also be able to recognize any new words you run into that talk about girls. The big thing to keep in mind is when the word 女 gets combined with another, it is almost always talking about some sort of girl.
After a while you begin to get used to it, so it stops being such a chore, but I can totally remember being overwhelmed myself the first couple times I tried to understand all of it.
What about you? Which of these words have you run into the most? Where there any words I missed? Let me know with a comment below!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: