What is the meaning of obasan (おばさん) in Japanese?

This article will give you all of the knowledge you need on the Japanese word obasan, including its Japanese definition and translation, example sentences, and more!

What does obasan mean?

Obasan (叔母さん、おばさん) means middle-aged woman in Japanese. It typically refers to women in their 40s to 50s, but there is no precise definition.

Japan is an ageist society in a big way. Japanese women in their late 20s generally fret about having become an obasan even if they don’t really mean it. You might say it is an acknowledgement of getting older.

The original meaning of obasan is aunt so Japanese people use it for family members too.

Is obasan a rude word?

Obasan means middle-aged woman in Japanese

In its original meaning, obasan is not rude when used for family members. However, most women would not be happy to be called an obasan by someone they don’t know. Be careful with this word!

In reality though, Japanese people do use this word when talking about women of a certain age in the third person. Overall, I would say it is mildly impolite rather than super rude.

So what should you use instead?

When addressing someone directly, it’s better to simply use their name if you know it. If they are older than you, add san (さん)to their name to make it more polite.

If you don’t know the person’s name then just omit the “you” from the sentence. Unlike English, Japanese does not require it.

Example sentences

Below, we take a look at some examples of how to use obasan in Japanese.

To make it easier for you, I have written each sentence in full Japanese kanji in the first line, followed by roman letters (romaji), and hiragana, with the English meaning coming last.

Obasan wa nan sai na no?
How old is your aunt?

Omise no obasan ga yasashikute, tada de kudamono wo kureta.
There was a kind (older) woman at the shop who gave me some fruit for free.

When used for yourself, obasan can take on the meaning of being too old or past it.

Wakai toki wa moteta kedo, mou obasan ni nacchatta!
I used to be popular with boys when I was younger, but I’m too old now!

Jibun ga obasan ni natta to kanjiru toki mo aru.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve become a middle-aged woman.

Does obasan also mean old woman?

Japanese learners often confuse obasan with obaasan (お婆さん、おばあさん)which instead refers to an old woman (i.e. 60+) and whose literal meaning is grandmother. The best way to tell the difference between the two is to remember that obaasan has a longer ‘a’ sound.

What is the male equivalent?

Ojisan is used to refer to a middle-aged man. As you might have guessed, it literally means uncle in Japanese.