How to Say Girl in Japanese Naturally: 5 Different Ways

The Japanese word for girl is 女子 (joshi). As with the Japanese word for boy, there are several other words for girl in Japanese that changes depending on the girl’s age and life stage. 

Let’s look at the other ways to say girl in Japanese and how and when to use them.

1. 女の子 (Onna No Ko) – A Little Girl

In Japanese, the phrase 女の子 (onna no ko) refers to a little girl. It can be used for girls between infancy and 10 or 11 years old. The only time onna no ko might be used when referring to an adult woman might be if an older person who knew the woman from the time she was a little girl is speaking about her. Otherwise, onna no ko should only be used for little girls and babies.

Examples:

1. That little girl on the swing over there is my daughter.
あそこでブランコに乗っている女の子は私の娘です。
(Asokode buranko ni notte iru onna no ko wa watashi no musume desu.)

2. A girl, about 5 years old, got lost and is looking for her mother.
5才くらいの女の子が迷子になってお母さんを探しています。
(Gosai kurai no onna no ko ga maigo ni natte okaasan o sagashite imasu.)

3. There are five girls in our class.  
うちのクラスには、女の子が5人います。 
(Uchi no kurasu ni wa, onna no ko ga go nin imasu.)

2. 少女 (Shoujo) – A Young or Juvenile Girl

Shoujo is the Japanese word for a girl in her preteens or teens. However, the word shoujo is a bit formal and not used as often in conversations as other words for girl in Japanese. Shoujo also refers to any young adult media aimed at preteen or teenage girls, such as 少女マンガ (shoujo manga).

Examples:

1. She’s quite a fine young lady, isn’t she? 
立派な少女ですね!  
(Rippa na shoujo desu ne!)

2. This drama is clearly aimed at young girls.            
このドラマは明らかに少女向けです。      
(Kono dorama wa akiraka ni shoujo muke desu.) 

3. 女子 (Joshi) – A Girl, An Adolescent Girl

Joshi is the most generally used term for girl in Japanese. It’s the term you will hear most often in the news, and all girls’ schools are referred to as 女子校 (joshi kou). More specifically, however, joshi refers to adolescent girls between their late teens and early twenties. 

Examples:

1. Sweets that have matcha in it are popular among young girls.
抹茶を使ったスイーツが女子の間で人気です。
(Maccha o tsukatta suiitsu ga joshi no aida de ninki desu.)

2. There are 8 girls and 10 boys in the class I teach.
私が教えているクラスには、女子が8人、男子が10人います。
(Watashi ga oshiete iru kurasu niwa, joshi ga hachi-nin, danshi ga juu-nin imasu.)

4. お姉さん (Oneesan) – A Girl (Casual)

While お姉さん (oneesan) means older sister in Japanese, it’s also used as a casual word for girls and young women. Japanese people use oneesan when referring to a waitress, a girl they might be familiar with, or even young female strangers (since they don’t know their name yet).  The word is mainly used in casual situations and usually only by people who are older than the girl in question. 

Example:

A very kind girl found my wallet.
優しいお姉さんが私の財布を見つけてくれました。
(Yasashii oneesan ga watashi no saifu o mitsukete kuremashita.)

5. 美人 (Bijin) – A Beautiful Girl/Woman

This term doesn’t technically mean “girl.” Rather it is a word to refer to a girl who is beautiful.  In Japanese, 美人 (bijin) is used to describe a gorgeous girl. It can be used for women of all ages, but usually for adult women. T

his can be used either as a direct compliment or when speaking about the girl in question. It’s more commonly used as a friendly complement and not as a flirtatious line—although there are always exceptions to this rule.

Example:

That’s my neighbor’s daughter. She’s grown into quite a beauty!
あの人は隣の家の娘さんです。とても美人になりましたね! 
(Ano hito wa tonari no ie no musume san desu. Totemo bijin ni narimashita ne!

Conclusion

There are plenty of ways to say girl in Japanese, but a few of them may depend on how old the girl in question is. If you don’t know which of these words fits best, the safest choice is 女子 (joshi), or perhaps 少女 (shoujo) in formal situations. How do you say girl in your language? Let us know in the comments!

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