How to Say Boy in Japanese Naturally

The Japanese word for “boy” is 男子(danshi). There are several other words for boy that depend on the person’s age and life phase in question. In this article, we’ll cover the different ways to say boy in Japanese and when and how to use them.

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1. 男の子 (Otoko No Ko) – A Little Boy

The phrase 男の子(otoko no ko) means boy in Japanese but mainly refers to little children, babies, or male pets. It would be considered condescending if you referred to an adult man or even a young adult as an otoko no ko. Japanese society generally considers any young man younger than twenty to be an otoko no ko, but teenage boys might not be happy to hear the phrase applied to them.


1. おめでとうございます!男の子です!
(Omedetō gozaimasu!  Otoko no ko desu!)
Congratulations! It’s a boy!

2. この男の子は、東小学校の生徒です。
(Kono otoko no ko wa, Higashi Shōgakkō no seito desu.)
This boy goes to Higashi Elementary School.

2. 少年 (Shōnen) – Young Boy, Juvenile Boy

少年 (shōnen) means young boy in Japanese. Boys in their preteens and early teens are usually called shōnen . You might also know the word shōnen from manga magazines like 少年ジャンプ (Shōnen Jump). In this scenario, shōnen refers to a genre aimed at young boys.


(Watashi wa shōnen no koro, yoku gakkō kara jitensha de kaerimashita.)
In my youth, I often rode home from school on my bike.

3. 男子 (Danshi) – Boy, A Male Youth

In Japanese, 男子(danshi) can refer to a boy between his teen years and his early twenties. While junior high and high school boys can technically be called otoko no ko, they would probably prefer to be called danshi. 


1. 彼は男子校に行っています。
(Kare wa danshi ō ni itteimasu.)
He goes to an all-boys school.

2. うちの中学校のソフトボールチームには、男子3人と女子4人がいます。
(Uchi no chūgakkō no sofutobōru chīmu ni wa, danshi san nin to joshi yo nin ga imasu.)
There are three boys and four girls on our junior high softball team.

4. 坊や (Bōya) – Kid, Boy

Although not as commonly used in modern Japanese, 坊や(bōya) can also be an affectionate or friendly word for boy in Japanese. Originally, in the Edo era, this term was used for young boys and girls. These days, it’s used for men (mostly little boys). It is sometimes used for older men who are seen as immature or unsophisticated.


(Bōya, nani o tabeteiru no?)
What are you eating, kiddo?


There are many ways to say boy in Japanese, and each depends on how old the boy in question is. If you’re uncertain about which of these to use, both 男子(danshi) and 少年(shounen) are safe choices. 

How do you say boy in your language? Let us know in the comments!

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Erin Himeno

Erin hails from the east coast of the United States. She initially came to Japan to share her love of English and country cookin', but ended up getting married and adopting two chubby cats. Erin doesn't mind; she enjoys her life in Japan and writes about culture shock, culture share, and the exciting chapters in between.

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