Maybe you’re constantly stopping by your local manga bookseller. Maybe you are a die-hard anime fan familiar with Japanese honorifics. Mybe you simply love Japanese culture and want to learn Japanese to understand Japanese people better.
If so, you’ve likely come across the word kun a number of times and have a pretty good idea as to what it means. For everyone else — this post is for you.
In this article, we’re exploring the word kun to uncover its definition, synonyms, antonyms, and more. So if you’ve ever wondered what your manga-obsessed bestie means when adding “kun” let us be your digital sensei (先生) and read on to learn more! Here’s our complete guide on kun.
What Is the Definition of Kun?
If you’re searching for the skinny on all things “-kun,” and look to the Collins Dictionary or other trusted English Dictionaries for information, you will quickly discover that kun can refer to the leader of the Hungarian Soviet Republic from 1919 — Béla Kun.
Kun founded the Hungarian Communist Party in mid’ December of 1918; however, he was imprisoned by February of the next year. Nevertheless, we are here for a different meaning, which is arguably the most commonly used honorific suffix in anime and manga today — Kun (君, くん).
What Is the Japense Defintion for -Kun?
As is the case with many words in the English language, the Japanese word kun or くん, has a few varying definitions. Kun can mean four different things; this all depends on whether or not the word is written in Hiragana or in Kanji.
Here is a quick list of the varying meanings behind the Japenese kun (くん):
- 勲 — order of merit — kun
- 訓 — Japanese reading of kanji — kun
- クンクン — sniff-sniff or sniff — kun kun
- くん, 君 — boy, master, Mr (junior) — kun
Whether you’re enjoying your favorite manga, watching an anime, or using it in everyday conversation, you are most likely to encounter kun when added to a person’s name. Using kun this way is referred to as a Japanese honorific suffix or honorific title, a title of respect used for someone of a higher status.
Common Japanese Honorific Titles
If you enjoy watching anime or are familiar with Japanese culture, you’ve likely run into many of the varying honorific suffixes, such as:
- San (さん) — similar to “Mr,” Ms.,” Mrs.,” and so on.
- Chan (ちゃん) — a form of san used to refer to female family members and children.
- Sama (様) — the formal version of san.
- Niisan/Neesan (兄さん / 姉さん) — used when referring to one’s older sister, brother, or any relative or close friend.
- Dono/Tono (殿 との) — means “lord” or “master.”
- Shi (氏) — used to address someone you have known through publications, such as in legal documents or academic journals, but have never actually met.
Honorific Titles That Can Stand Alone
In some cases, honorific titles can stand on their own. For example, most of us will refer to our child’s coach simply as “coach,” or have you ever heard your favorite Social Studies teacher referred to as just, “teach?”
These are both examples of how we use standalone titles in the English Language. Below we have included a few examples of honorific titles that can stand on their own:
- Senpai (先輩) — used by students to refer to or address senior students, or in business settings like the office to refer to those in more senior positions.
- Sensei (先生) — used to refer to or address teachers, doctors, or other authority figures. It is also used to show respect to someone who has achieved a certain level of mastery in some skill.
- Kōhai (後輩) — used to refer to or address juniors.
When Should Japanese Honorific Names Not Be Used?
If you’d like to use common honorifics as you further your understanding of the Japanese language, you should keep these rules in mind:
- Refrain from using Japanese honorifics when talking about yourself because it makes you sound arrogant.
- Don’t use honorific names when talking to someone from your inner circle (内 uchi), like your parents or grandparents.
- If the person asks you not to use honorific titles ((呼び捨てyobisute), be polite and don’t use them.
- Don’t use honorific names when talking about someone from your inner circle to someone outside that circle (外 soto).
A Final Word
So, what does kun mean, you ask?
The Japanese word kun can mean a few things as it depends on whether it’s written in Hiragana or Kanji. In everyday life and anime, however, you’ll most likely encounter kun when added to an individual’s name. In this case, the honorific title is mainly used for young men and juniors. Kun is also sometimes used with women — especially in the office.
Once you have made some close friends (usually male), you can address them by either using their first or last name and adding the Japanese honorific suffix kun. That said, since it’s typically only used with people who you are close with, it’s much more common to attach kun to someone’s first name.