How Do You Say Little Brother in Japanese? Learn How to Talk About Bros!

Today, let’s continue along with the theme of family members. And in particular we will talk about the bro siblings.

If you missed the post on little sisters, then you can find it by clicking here.

We’ll talk about all kinds of brothers, but start off with little bros.

The Japanese word for little brother sounds an awful lot like the Japanese word for father. You don’t want to get those two mixed up! So how do you say little brother in Japanese?

Read on to find out!

弟 (otouto) – Younger Brother

The Japanese word for little brother is  (otouto). You would use this particular word when you are talking about your own little brother. But if you wanted to talk about someone else’s little brother, then you would add on the honorific さん (san) to the end of it to turn it into 弟さん (otoutosan).

This word sounds almost identical to the word for “father” which is お父さん (otousan). The only difference is that the word for “father” has one less (to) sound in it. So watch out for that!

Some of the compound words that use this kanji for “younger brother” are

  • 弟子 (deshi) = Pupil
  • 弟妹 (teimai) = Younger brother and  sister
  • 弟分 (otoutobun) = Friend treated as a younger brother

兄 (ani) – Older Brother

The Japanese word for big brother is (ani). Again, this is the version of the word that is specific to your own older brother. If you wanted to talk about someone else’s older brother, you would have to say お兄さん (oniisan).

Using more polite words for others and humble words for yourself is a part of the Japanese uchi/soto concept. If you’re not familiar with it, then you can read about it here in the post I wrote on sisters.

If you’ve seen a lot of anime or played a JRPG like Persona 4, then I’m sure you’ve noticed some younger characters will say “big bro” in place of their older brother’s name. Sometimes it’s not even their biological brother, but just a guy who is “like an older brother” to them.

In Japanese, the word they are saying is お兄ちゃん (oniichan). This is like the polite word for someone else’s brother, but the respectful さん has been replaced with the familiar ちゃん.

Some of the compound words that use this kanji for “older brother” are

  • 兄弟 (kyoudai) = Brothers
  • 兄姉 (keishi) = Older brother and sister
  • 兄弟分 (kyoudaibun) = Buddy, a sworn brother

 More Bros

  • 実弟 (jittei) = Biological younger brother
  • 義弟 (gitei) = Younger brother-in-law
  • 末弟 (battei) = Youngest brother
  • 実兄 (jikkei) = Biological older brother
  • 義兄 (gikei) = Older brother-in-law
  • 長兄 (choukei) = Oldest brother

Today’s post was pretty short. A lot of the information relating to the dynamics of older vs. younger siblings and my vs. your siblings were written about earlier, so I skipped on repeating all of that information here.

6 thoughts on “How Do You Say Little Brother in Japanese? Learn How to Talk About Bros!”

  1. My sister went to Japan due to work related stuff, and so she had to learn a few phrases. 

    When she came back I was really surprised by how much she had learnt. If I wasn’t any smarter I would have thought she had lived there for years!

    Apparently it’s really easy to pick up this language. Gonna make sure to learn more and maybe visit the country myself!

    • Hey Alex, yeah Japanese is actually one of the easiest languages to pronounce because it has a very limited amount of sounds in it. So if you pick up a few phrases and then get a feel for the language, then it’s not that hard to sound very close to a native.

      I’m actually surprised that more people in America don’t know Japanese considering that it’s the third largest economy in the world. You would think that a lot of business people would want to study it in order to help make additional money for their companies.

  2. My little brother is learning Japanese. Actually he took a break but I hope he starts studying again. I will say teimai and maybe I can help him to get his motivation back for learning japanese.

    • Hey that’s pretty cool about your younger brother! Yeah, learning a new language is a pretty big undertaking and it’s understandable when someone takes a break from it. I’ve done it myself before too. Let him know about this site when he decides to take it up again. I’d love to help him out! Thanks!

  3. Hi Nick,
    I love this post! I always wanted to learn a second language and the way you explain it is very simple. Makes it easy, approachable, and fun. I also looked up sister and the same thing. I will be coming back to this site. Thank you again for great information.

    • Hey thanks Reggie! Yeah, learning a second language is very cool, and I think it’s something that a lot of people want to do at some point in their life. Hope to hear from you again soon!


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