In my last post, I have covered one of the Japanese honorific suffixes, called ~さん(san). You can read it here if you would like to review. In today’s article, let me talk about ~ちゃん(chan), which is also a popular honorific suffix but the use of it will be totally different than さん(san). Read on!
~ちゃん(chan) is a common honorific suffix to use towards a younger and smaller girls. You might be calling your friend’s daughter who is 3 years old, as Sachiko-chan(さちこ ちゃん). Typically, if you are referring to your friend’s daughter, you will not call her by her first name. It sounds more polite and friendly by calling her name + chan(ちゃん).
If a child is a boy, you could still use ~ちゃん(chan) if he is a baby or toddler. ~ちゃん(chan) towards boys is most commonly used for boys under 3. You will be using ~kun(くん) instead for older boys, which I will cover in my next article. However, the exception might be that among family or relatives, ~ちゃん(chan) might be still used for older boys. For example, mom calling her son, Satoshi chan, or grand mother or auntie calling grandson or nephew, Hiro chan.
~ちゃん(chan) can be also used for older sister and older brother. Older sister is One-chan (おねえちゃん、お姉ちゃん), and older brother is Oni-chan(おにいちゃん、お兄ちゃん) in Japanese. Often times, younger siblings will call their older siblings this way. The way we call older siblings is also the same among cousins and close friends. You could also call your friend’s daughter by “One-chan (おねえちゃん、お姉ちゃん)” if she is older than your own children.
Smaller children would also use ~ちゃん(chan) to refer their special dolls, stuffed animals, or pets. For example, a younger girl might be calling her stuffed animal teddy bear as “kuma-chan(くまちゃん)”.
~ちゃん(chan) is also common to be included as part of a nickname of the person. For example, among friends, you might call one of your friends whose name is Yasuko(やすこ) as Yacchan(やっちゃん). It is common to call your friend by first letter (or a first few letters) + chan(ちゃん). Take a look at the examples below.
If the person’s name is: Commonly called among close friends,
Sachiko (さちこ) Sacchan(さっちゃん)
Keiko (けいこ) Kei chan(けいちゃん)
Satomi (さとみ) Sato chan(さとちゃん)
Kazuko (かずこ) Kazu chan(かずちゃん)
Next article will be on ~くん(kun). If any of this is confusing to you, please let me know.