Japanese

Learn How to Say Master in Japanese. This Lesson Will Teach You.

Have you even wanted to be a master? Maybe you’ve wanted to me a Mushi-Master or run your own Dojo? Or perhaps you just want a cute girl in a maid outfit to call you master?

Either way, I’ll show you how to say master in Japanese so that you can recognize the word when you hear it, and feel awesome when someone calls you it. There’s a few different ways to say it depending on exactly how it’s used, so get ready to be learned!

Master or Husband?

The first word for master is 主人 (shujin). This word is made by combining the NA-Adjective 主な (omona) which means “chief; main; principal” and the noun (hito) which means “person” together into a compound word.

As you can see, the normal pronunciation of both words gets changed when they are combined together into one.

What’s interesting is that the word 主人 is also the traditional word used for “husband” in Japanese.

Historically speaking, Japan was a very patriarchal society, so the husband in a marriage was also the master of the household. Nowadays the other words for husband are used more often such as  (otto) or ハズバンド (hasubando).

If you’ve ever seen anime (in Japanese) in which the characters go into a maid café, you will no doubt recognize the word that the maids use when addressing customers as they enter the store.

It is 主人様 (shujin sama) which is just the word for master with the honorific sama added on to the end of it.

One final thing that I found a rather funny is that the word 主人 (shujin) for husband is very close to the word 囚人 (shūjin) which means “prisoner.” Just by elongated the “u” vowel, it completely changes the meaning!

The Master Affix 

Have you even watched the anime Mushi-shi? It’s a really interesting one where the main character Ginko travels from place to place and investigates these strange beings known simple as “mushi.”

These mushi can take the form of all sorts of things like plants, small creatures, rainbows, etc. And they can be either a boon to humanity, or a curse.

In this story, the word mushi is spelled with the kanji which is an older kanji that is normally translated as “bug” in English, but not within the context of this particular show. In this show, the word mushi describes these special and mysterious beings.

By the way, the kanji that gets used for “bug” in Japanese these days is (mushi) which is just one of the three radicals in that other one.

The word (shi) can be either a prefix or a suffix (although I almost always see it used as a suffix) to bring the meaning of “master; teacher” to the rest of the word.

So the name of the show is 蟲師 (mushi-shi) and means “mushi master.” But if you check out Netflix’s live action movie of it, they’ve titled it as “bug master” (-_-* )

Come on sonnnnnn!!!

Examples of Masters

  • 医師 (ishi) = Doctor
  • 教師 (kyōshi) = Classroom teacher
  • 技師 (gishi) = Engineer
  • 大師 (daishi) = Great teacher (i.e. Buddha)
  • 牧師 (bokushi) = Paster
  • 師範 (shihan) = Fencing instructor

  • 主な品詞 (omona hinshi) = The main part of speech.

  • いらっしゃいませ、主人様!
    irasshaimase, shujin-sama!
    Welcome back, Master!
  • 人は二人の主人に従うことはできない。
    hito wa futari no shujin ni shitagau koto wa dekinai.
    No man can serve two masters.
  • その犬は尾を振りながら、主人の後についていった。
    sono inu wa o wo furi nagara, shujin no ato ni tsuite itta.
    The dog followed its master while wagging its tail.

And there seems to be an English loan word for just about everything these days. This particular one is マスター (mastā) which of course means “master” in Japanese. 

And now you are the 主人様!

I’d like to hear from you guys! Did you enjoy this post? Do you know of any other words that can mean “master” in Japanese?

Join the discussion and leave a comment below!

2 Comments

  • Learn to be Great

    I thought master was sensei in Japanese!? Anyway, your story is pretty interesting. You learned Japanese on your own? That’s pretty difficult, I imagine.

    I read, write, and speak Korean at an elementary level. I started back in 1999 … 18 years later, I’m okay but my 8-year old speaks better Korean than me! I had to learn by immersing myself in the culture while I was stationed in Korea (4 times!) while I was in the Army.

    It gets harder to learn languages with age. I think it’s great to always be learning. Nice website!

    PS. Have you tried Duolingo? They just added Japanese. It’d be nice to see a review of that on your site.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey, as it turns out I actually took part in the Beta release of Duolingo. They are probably the most popular software company out there that teaches languages (free is nice after all!) and their Japanese course is pretty good. You can read my review on it by clicking on the link below:

      Click Here to Read my Duolingo Japanese Review.

      And that’s pretty cool that you and your kid know Korean! I’ve actually thought about learning it myself a few times in the past, but I’ve never actually taken any concrete steps to begin the process. Who knows, perhaps I will climb that mountain some day.

      As for the word sensei (先生), it actually has a meaning more along the lines of “the one who teaches me” which is why all students in the public school system call their classroom teachers sensei.

      Interestingly enough, it can also be used as an honorific for the exact same meaning. So if your teacher’s last name was Smith, you would call him or her “Smith-Sensei” when addressing them.

      But I will say this: often times a teacher in certain endeavors such as martial arts will be called sensei, and in these particular situations it is much more natural to translate it into English as “master” rather than “teacher.”

      So you are correct: sensei is yet another way to say master in Japanese, but since “teacher” is a better way to interpret it most of the time, you won’t see or use it a lot for the M-word.

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