Japanese

What Does shoujo Mean in Anime? Learn Anime-Speak

If you’re into anime (and manga), then you’ve no doubt come across the word shoujo before. You might have an inkling of what it means based on the types of anime that typically get put into this category, but what does shoujo mean in Anime?

It means GIRLS!!!

Haha, but no really. Let’s take a look into the word and what kinds of elements comprise this genre of anime.

The Word and the Kanji

The word shoujo is comprised of two separate kanji that are combined together to form a compound word.

The first kanji is  which means “few, little” when used as its own word like 少し sukoshi. But when  is used as a prefix to modify the word that follows it, the pronunciation changes to shou.

So there’s the first half of the word.

The second kanji is  which means “women, female” and is pronounced onna on its own, but of course the way you say it changes to jo when it is used in conjunction with other kanji.

Therefore, the word 少女 shoujo means “little woman” which is really just another way of saying “girl” in English. The age range is typically from age 7-18.

As you can see, this is different from the word 女の子 onna no ko which just means “girl” as 少女 refers to a specific age range or type of girl.

Related: What Does seinen Mean in Anime?

So 少女アニメ shoujo anime (or 少女漫画 shoujo manga) is a genre that is targeted at young girls who enjoy watching anime.

What is it that young girls are into?

Well, 少女 usually has a strong focus on the human and romantic relationships that are in an anime’s story and the accompanying emotions that the characters feel.

It is usually a slice of life type of story where the main girl is in middle school or high school, but it’s not limited to just that. It can have magical powers or an unusual twist to it, and still be considered shoujo.

Here’s a great video (about two and a half minutes long) from Crunchyroll’s Anime Academy that talks about shoujo, how it can morph into other genres rather easily, and some examples of good shoujo.

Really cool! I think the whole Anime Academy series is great and would encourage all anime fans to check it out.

Further Examples of shoujo

You’ll notice that the “shou” in “shoujo” has an elongated “o” sound in it. A Japanese person would notice right away if someone said the word without that extra “o” but someone who’s new to Japanese might not and accidentally say it as just “shojo.”

It’s not really a big deal, but the word shojo, written with the kanji 処女, actually means “virgin” in Japanese. So just be aware of the two words.

  • 少女 (shoujo) = Young girl
  • 処女 (shojo) = Virgin

Anyway, the word 少女 gets used all the time in real life

  • あのかわいい少女は私の妹です。
    Ano kawaii shoujo wa watashi no imouto desu.
    That cute girl is my little sister.
  • 私はその少女を知っています。
    Watashi wa sono shoujo o shitte imasu.
    I know that girl.
  • 少年少女たちが通りでパレードしていた。
    Shounen shoujo tachi ga toori de pareedo shite ita.
    Boys and girls were parading along the street.
  • 少女小説 (shoujo shousetsu) = Stories for young girls.

And finally, if you want to talk about women that are older than the 少女 age range, you would use the word 女性 josei.

  • 男性より女性のほうが長生きする。
    Dansei yori josei no hou ga chouseiki suru.
    Women live longer than men.

And now you know all about the word 少女 and the type of anime that can be considered shoujo.

Let me know if you like this post. Give it a like if you did!

And let me know what you guys think. Do you like jousei anime? Which ones are your favorite? Leave a comment on it below!

4 Comments

  • Marcus

    Hey Nick

    Big anime fan here, but didn’t know shoujo means girls. Although I haven’t had much time lately to watch anything, I did manage to squeeze in watching the second season of attack on titan though haha :p

    “Shoujo” kind of reminds me of strong South Korean alcohol lol, it is pronounced more like “shujiu” though.

    I have been coming back to your website several times over the past few months, and I really like stuff you creating here. So much good educational content presented in a funny and easy to understand way.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey, glad you are enjoying it Marcus! 

      Not too surprised since shoujo is primarily aimed toward young girls anyway. The only one that I ever half way watched was Fruits Basket back when I was a lot younger.

      And I have yet to watch Attack on Titan S2 yet! My little sister got my to watch the first season which was totally awesome, but I’ve been super lazy on my anime shows lately 🙁

  • Paul

    Great post on the Japanese language, Nick.

    I have always loved languages. I am very fascinated by the breakdown of words and how they come into existence.
    This is also an excellent means to learn about a culture. Thanks for the Anime/Manga lesson.
    A few days ago I learned the word ” kaizen ” and it is now part of my vocabulary.
    What was the hardest part of the language to learn? How long have you been learning Japanese?

    Paul

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Paul, probably the hardest part of learning a language is really just staying disciplined and working on it each and every day. I read that when you learn a new language, your brain literally opens up a new section in order to store all of the new information, so it’s no surprise that it can take a little while to get it down.

      That, plus the particular approach that you decide to use will also determine how long it takes you to learn. Some are obviously better than others. 

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