Honorific Usage

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Honorifics are a part of speech in Japanese that are used with names to indicate status. There are a number of different honorifics within the Japanese language, but there are only a few that you'll hear when watching the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime or reading the original Japanese manga. Please note that this page ONLY refers to the original Japanese anime or manga, not the dub(s). The ways the characters refer to each other in the dub does not belong on this page.

The most common and modern honorifics are:

Honorific Used For
-san General respect; usually used for older adults, strangers, or people you respect. Usually translates to "Mr." or "Ms."
-kun Typically used for boys, but particularly boys younger than the speaker (e.g. a teacher to a male student, Anzu to Kaiba, etc.)
-chan Typically used for girls, but boys can use it to make fun of one another. Usually a boy or a girl will refer to another girl using -chan (e.g. Anzu or Honda would call Miho "Miho-chan"). An affectionate term indicating closeness (e.g. Yuugi calls Sugoroku Mutou "'jiichan," which basically translates to "Grampa").
-sama Great respect; used for anyone in a higher position than the speaker. Usually translates to "Lord," Lady," "Master," or "Mistress."
(no honorific) The lack of an honorific can mean any of three things: (1) the speaker is intentionally being rude, and thinks they are of a higher status than the person to whom they're speaking; (2) the speaker comes from a crude background and simply doesn't use honorifics for anyone; (3) the speaker is intimately close (good friends, lovers, etc.) with the person to whom they're speaking
-sempai Can be used with a name or on its own. Used by younger students to refer to an upperclassman.
-kouhai Can be used with a name, but is usually used on its own. Used by older students to refer to an underclassman.

Besides the above-mentioned honorifics, it's also worth noting that most people in Japanese refer to each other by their surname (family names) unless they are very well-acquainted with the person to whom they're speaking. For example, Anzu and Yuugi are best friends, so they refer to each other as "Yuugi" and "Anzu" respectively, without any honorifics or surnames. However, they refer to Hiroto Honda and Katsuya Jounouchi by their surnames, and, depending on the speaker, with or without an honorific. The only person who refers to Jounouchi by his given name is his sister, and no one canonically refers to Honda by his given name.

Girls also often make up nicknames that are "sound parodies" of the name in question. While no one does this canonically in Yu-Gi-Oh!, it can be assumed that characters like Anzu and the anime version of Miho would likely do this, if not with each other, than with their friends. For example, Anzu might call Miho "Micchi." (Some great sources of this: xxxHolic's Fai Flowright and Kurogane; Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon's Usagi Tsukino and Mamoru Chiba, as well as a number of other characters, and many more! Keep your ears open when watching Japanese anime for more examples.)

Finally, the way a speaker refers to him or herself, and occasionally to whom they are speaking (when they DON'T use a name) indicates status as well. For example, Seto Kaiba and Dark Bakura often use the Japanese word "ore" for "me," which is a version of "me" that has implications of high and mighty status. A girl or simply a "meeker" person would use "watashi" or "atashi," while a boy would typically use "boku." When referring to someone else rudely, words like "teme" or "kisama" might be used; these are often translated as "bastard" because of how incredibly rude they are, even though the literal meaning is simply "you." A person NEVER uses honorifics of any kind to refer to themselves, though some characters in various anime and manga do refer to themselves by their own name. For example, in the Toei anime, Miho Nosaka often refers to herself in the third person, calling herself "Miho." She does not use an honorific when she does this, as that would be inappropriate. However, for someone that uses terms like "ore," they're likely to have such a large ego that they don't care about using honorifics properly; it's not unheard of for someone to tack on "-sama" to "ore" to elevate their self-imposed status even further. However, this comes across as very egotistical and rude in Japanese. (Even though several characters do refer to themselves with terms like "ore" and "ore-sama" in Yu-Gi-Oh!, this will not be listed in the below table. Most of the time, those characters only refer to themselves that way a few times, not all the time/consistently.)

For the following table, the name listed in the top horizontal row indicates the character in question; the name in the leftmost column indicates who they would be speaking/referring to to. For example, if I look at the first name in the horizontal row, "Dark Yuugi," I can go down that same column to see that he calls Seto Kaiba as just plain "Kaiba," and he doesn't use an honorific.

  Dark Yuugi Yuugi Mutou Anzu Mazaki Hiroto Honda Katsuya Jounouchi Miho Nosaka Seto Kaiba Mokuba Kaiba Mai Kujaku Shizuka Kawai Ryuuji Otogi
Dark Yuugi N/A "Other Me"
"Other Yuugi"
"Other Yuugi"
"Other Yuugi"
"Other Yuugi"
a b c d e
Yuugi Mutou "Other Me"
Yuugi
N/A Yuugi (no honorific) Yuugi (no honorific) Yuugi (no honorific) Yuugi-kun Yuugi (no honorific) Yuugi (no honorific) f g h
Anzu Mazaki Anzu (no honorific) Anzu (no honorific) N/A i j k l m Anzu-chan o p
Hiroto Honda Honda-kun Honda-kun r N/A Honda (no honorific) s t u v w x
Katsuya Jounouchi Jounouchi-kun Jounoichi-kun Jounouchi (no honorific) Jounouchi (no honorific) N/A aa bb cc dd ee ff
Miho Nosaka Miho-chan gg hh Miho-chan ii N/A jj kk ll mm nn
Seto Kaiba Kaiba (no honorific) Kaiba-kun Kaiba-kun oo pp qq N/A Nii-sama ("Big brother") ss tt uu
Mokuba Kaiba vv Mokuba-kun xx yy zz a1 Mokuba (no honorific) N/A a3 a4 a5
Mai Kujaku Mai (no honorific) Mai-san Mai-san a9 Mai (no honorific) b2 b3 b4 N/A b5 b6
Shizuka Kawai b7 b8 b9 c1 c2 c3 c4 c5 c6 N/A c7
Ryuuji Otogi c8 c9 d1 d2 d3 d4 d5 d6 d7 d8 N/A