The “standard” word for husband in Japanese is 夫 (otto). Whereas there are many nuanced words for wife in Japanese, “husband” has only a few specific terms that depend on whose husband is being referred to. In this article, we’ll look at the different ways to say husband in Japanese.
1. 主人 (Shujin) – (One’s Own) Husband, Master
主人 (shujin) means husband in Japanese. It’s used to refer to one’s husband only, so possessive pronouns like 私の (watashi no) are unnecessary. Shujin is seen as a problematic word to some, but it’s the politest way to speak about your own husband in Japanese.
Shujin originally meant master or master of the house, depending on the context. This is just one sign of Japan’s patriarchal roots that tend to draw the ire of international scholars and journalists. Worse, the word shujin is still used in the context of “master” or “owner” when it comes to pets.
This, plus the generous use of the more honorable word ご主人様 (goshujin-sama) in Japan’s anime and maid café culture, causes more than a few young people (foreign or native) to balk at using shujin in daily conversation.
Despite the debate over whether to say shujin, it remains the term for husband in Japanese when you’re in a formal situation. Remember that shujin can only be used to talk about your spouse. If you absolutely can’t stomach the history behind this word, then 夫 (otto) is the safest word for husband in Japanese.
- My husband made ginger pork for me last night. I’m so lucky! – 昨晩、主人が生姜焼きを作ってくれました。幸せでした！ (Sakuban, shujin ga shougayaki o tsukutte kuremashita. Shiawase deshita!)
2. 旦那 (Danna) – (Someone Else’s) Husband
The word 旦那 (danna) is used to refer to the husband of someone else in Japanese. Like shujin, danna is a term that holds some patriarchal history.
Geisha and others originally used it in the service industry to address the noble, high-ranking men they attended to. Because of this, danna has an honorific nuance. This makes it ideal for referring to someone else’s husband: you are honoring them with your speech. Be sure to add the suffix -さん (-san) in polite conversation.
Technically, referring to your own husband as danna would be lifting him—and in a sense, yourself—above the person you’re speaking to. A generation or more ago, it would be considered rude. However, younger Japanese people have been interchanging danna and shujin more often, especially as the patriarchal nuance of shujin becomes less palatable. You’ll probably hear a young Japanese person refer to their husband as danna. We recommend that you only do the same if you’re among friends or surrounded by people who are the same age.
- Will your husband be joining us? – 旦那さんは来られますか？ (Danna-san wa koraremasu ka?)
- My husband is a huge golf nerd . – うちの旦那はゴルフオタクよ。 (Uchi no danna wa gorufu otaku yo.)
3. 夫 (Otto) – Husband
夫 (otto) is the general term for husband in Japanese. It can be used either for someone else’s husband* or your own spouse. To avoid confusion over whose husband the word is referring to, it might be best to add possessives like 私の (watashi no) or あなたの (anata no) before otto. Young people who feel uncomfortable saying shujin often use otto instead.
*Note: 夫 can be used to talk about someone else’s husband, but ONLY in the third person. This means you wouldn’t use 夫 with someone you are speaking to directly (Example: How is YOUR husband? What is YOUR husband’s name? etc.). Example #1 below is okay, since the conversation is about a third person (Sakura’s husband).
Otto is also commonly found in legal documents or other paperwork. It will always appear in kanji; be careful to confuse it with the kanji 未 (mi), or future. There’s only one stroke’s difference between the two!
- Sakura’s husband is handsome, isn’t he? – 桜さんの夫はイケメンですね！ (Sakura-san no otto wa ikemen desu ne!)
- My husband came home early today, so we went fishing. – 今日、私の夫はいつもより早く帰れたので、釣りに行った。 (Kyou, watashi no otto wa itsumo yori hayaku kaereta node, tsuri ni itta.)
4. うちの人 (Uchi No Hito) – My Hubby
A far more modern saying than the others on this list, うちの人 (uchi no hito) is used by women when they’re among friends or family. Uchi no hito literally translates to my person. It’s a fond term, almost a pet name. An American-English equivalent might be “my hubby” or “my guy.”
While it’s technically gender-neutral, uchi no hito is almost always used by women to refer to their spouses. It’s an informal phrase and should by no means be used with strangers or in the company of one’s boss.
- My hubby can’t handle alcohol. He turns beet red! – うちの人は酒が苦手なんです。飲んだらすぐ 真っ赤になるよ！ (Uchi no hito wa sake ga nigate nan desu. Nondara sugu makka ni naru yo!)
5. あなた/あんた (Anata/Anta) – Dear, Honey
The word あなた (anata) translates to “you” in Japanese. However, many married women have taken to using it when speaking to their husbands directly. This term’s nuance is similar to the English “dear,” “sweetie,” or other pet names.
It’s important to remember that anata is a direct address; it can’t be used to speak about your husband to someone else. Anata can be shortened to あんた (anta). This is conversational Japanese and is rarely written.
- Dear, would you take out the trash? – あなた、ゴミを出してくれない？ (Anata, gomi o dashite kurenai?)
6. お父さん (Otousan) – Father
Similar to the way that お母さん (okaasan), or mother in Japanese can be used to refer to wives, お父さん (otousan), or father can be used to refer to husbands.
As is the case with okaasan, this term is only applicable to husbands who are also fathers. Spouses might call their husbands otousan directly or use the term when speaking to their children about their husbands/fathers.
- Father, the cake you made is delicious! – お父さん、作ってくれたケーキ、美味しいよ！ (Otou-san, tsukutte kureta keeki, oishii yo!)
7. 既婚男性 (Kikon Dansei) – Married Men, Husbands
The term 既婚男性 (kikon dansei) is a very broad term for men who are married. Kikon dansei will typically only appear in textbooks, polls, and reports. It is certainly not a term you’d want to call your husband or someone else’s. However, kikon dansei can be seen in the local news or other daily media. It’s recommended to be aware of this term and its meaning.
- Most married men do 20% of the household chores. – 既婚男性は家事の２０パーセントをやると言われています。 (Kikon dansei wa kaji no ni juu paasento o yaru to iwareteimasu.)
8. 新郎 (Shinrou) – Groom, Newly Married Husband
新郎 (shinrou) is the Japanese word for a husband who has recently married. It’s also used to refer to the groom on his wedding day.
- I hear that the groom gave his new wife a bouquet of roses. How wonderful! – 新郎がバラのブーケを新婦さんにあげたそうですよ。素敵ですね！ (Shinrou ga bara no buuke o shinpu-san ni ageta sou desu yo. Suteki desu ne!)
9. 婿 (Muko) – Son-in-Law
The word 婿 (muko) is the Japanese equivalent of son-in-law. It refers to a man that has married into the family—with a very specific exception.
Muko can only be applied to a husband who has taken the family name of his spouse. This is important in Japan because the tradition of 戸籍 (koseki), or family lineage/registry, is still running strong. It isn’t uncommon for the husband to take his wife’s family name, especially if there are no living male heirs.
Another common occurrence might be within an international marriage, should the husband be interested in taking his spouse’s Japanese name. Muko is a more legal term than its alternative 嫁 (yome), or daughter-in-law. It’s still an important word to know, especially if you are in an international marriage.
- My son-in-law is from Australia – うちの婿は、オーストラリア出身です。 (Uchi no muko wa, oosutoraria shusshin desu.)