100 Ways To Say “I” In Japanese — 37 Comments

  1. Wow, I had no idea there were so many! I think あたし sounds cute, so it’s probably my favorite. What about ways of saying “you” in Japanese? How many are there? And what about きさま, would you classify that as a very rude way of saying “you” or as an insult?

    • There’s a lot of those, too! 貴様(きさま)is just a very rude word for “you” (「貴様はほんとにチカンです!」). It can be used like an insult though (「貴様。。。」) even though it still just means “you”. If you’ve ever watched any subbed anime, most people translate it as “bastard”.

      But the only place you’ll probably hear that word is in Japanese media. :)

  2. Ha. I thought you were kidding when I read the post title. :) A lot of these I’ve never heard of, but I have seen a few interesting ones in medieval-set fiction and the like.

  3. This is a fantastic list and a lot of fun to read. It will also become a valuable resource as I read more obscure texts that’ll require knowledge of the older pronouncs. Definitely do a “you” list next! Or words for wife and husband. So many of those that I just can’t keep track of.

  4. I’ve seen Lord British use 余 to refer to himself in the Ultima series, and I’ve seen 妾(わらわ) used by Hinoto, a blind and mute dream seer, in the CLAMP manga “X”. But it certainly is surprising and shocking to see the sheer myriad of ways of referring to oneself laid out like this! :D

  5. Why to simplify if you can complicate? This is Japan =D

    Btw, how many of them are of common use? Can a gaijin use any of them or is it better to stick to the most common ones?

    • The ones on the “Old Usage” are mostly likely not common (except maybe in certain literature). Some on the regular list may be common in certain regions, but not in others.

      If you are going for laughs, use the less common ones.

      As a guy, stick to the 私, 僕, or 俺 depending on situation.

  6. Hmm, I always thought おりゃあ わたしゃ わしゃ etc. were contractions of 俺は 私は 儂は, but maybe I was wrong…

    • I just went on what was said here:


  7. I personally like to use 「自分」and 「私」when speaking about myself.

    It’s hard to pick just a few “I’s” Every one of them have something interesting about them.

  8. It’s probably worth mentioning that あたい in fiction usually means that the speaker is a 不良少女. And probably 時代遅れ.

    This is actually quite an awesome list. I only came upon 我が輩 (in katakana) recently in 逆転裁判. Actually, thinking over it, there were a shocking number of oddball ones in that game.

    It’s surprising how many of these are actually important to know. I definitely think 我 is still very important if you intend to read a lot, for instance, even though it has a very dated feel.

  9. I knew Japanese had many ways of saying “I” before, but personally didn’t know there would be anywhere near 100! I always struggle whether to use 俺、僕 or 私. I tend to steer away from 俺 just for the fear that people will find it obnoxious or too rough. I remember one high school Japanese friend told me she thought it was “cute” to see a male foreigner saying 僕, so I tend to be more cautious of using that as well! Perhaps avoiding saying the word “I” in Japanese would be less confusing :p

    • Thanks. Not sure how I missed that! Fixed. I originally meant to include the ちゃん・お variants, which is where my numbers got messed up. So I added them back in.

    • Yeah, for some reason I included that in the “100 ways to say You” list, but not here. Gotta love words that mean both you and I at the same time!

    • Now I’m doing dialect specific words and found this incredible account:

      It seems to post common words and phrases in standard dialect and then its alternatives in a huge variety of others. Seems like a great look at both dialects and what natives consider common…and more fuel for this game.

      • Nice Twitter account. It’s always great to find new sources of dialect learning. Thanks for linking that!

      • Nothing really specific, just interesting ways of speaking and dialect stuff I was previously unaware of. And a lot of 我輩は猫である references.

        I’ve actually been using Twitter a lot lately; I’m kind of wary of Lang8 just from seeing how poor the corrections can be for Japanese people writing English, so lately when I write something I’m unsure of I’ll run it through twitter to see if natives phrase it that way as well, or if there’s a better way to word it. Google auto complete suggestions are also helpful on that front; it can clue you in on what you you’re really trying to say.

  10. Thanks for the interesting list! I never realized the list was this expansive.

    I’m curious if any information about how LGBTQ individuals refer to themselves could be added. I am a Japanese tutor and one of my students is LGBTQ and asked about this (what pronouns would be best for her to use). I did some general Googling and found some resources, but there’s a lot to be desired.

    Her question made me really curious! What is going on in the Japanese language to deal with the new ways people are viewing gender vs. sex, and how they use words to refer to themselves and others?

    I realize this might be a big, broad, difficult topic… but on the off-chance that anyone can contribute, I thought I’d share my question. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

    • It’s a hard question to answer because I’m sure there are so many variations within the community, and a lot comes down to personal choice.

      At its basics, you can just use the “I” for the gender you want to associate yourself with.

      To associate yourself as male, 僕, 俺, オイラ, etc.
      To associate yourself as female, わたし、あたし、あーし、あちき、あたい, etc.

      The other thing I’ve noticed is a complete break from normal standard “I,” and using those that are older, or a different dialect, or just different from what most people use.

      This is as much as I know, and it’s mostly from observation on TV, so in reality it may vary as well. Anyone else want to chime in?

    • You may want to do some googling about “x gender”, which as far as I know is one of the more popular Japanese equivalents of what we refer to as non binary or genderqueer in English:

      I had some blogs bookmarked, but they’re on my now-failing hard drive. If you Google and read around you can probably easily find some native LGBTQ people and see how they refer to themselves and prefer to be referred to as.

      • Thank you both for your comments! I had not heard of “X-Gender” so this will be a great addition to Internet searches I can perform. 勉強になりました~ どうもありがとうございます!

  11. Sometimes, I get confused if someone uses この俺 or この私. Does it emphasizes “I”? Excuse my ignorance.

  12. Your post is so useful. Never know that “I” in Japanese can be spoken in many ways, up to 100 different ways.
    When I learn Vietnamese, it’s about 30 ways to say “I”, I’m shocked. And now I was even more shocked.

  13. I love 俺様(おれさま) I just loled super hard for 5 minutes when I read it. In my head it’s like saying that it’s the almighty me! Get down on your knees and lick my shoes you peasants!

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