The meaning of otousan (お父さん) and other words to know

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

What does otousan mean?

Otousan (お父さん、おとうさん; not to be confused with ojisan) means father in Japanese. You may have guessed that the san part of the word makes this honorific (i.e., respectful). In fact, children use this when addressing their fathers.

Otousan, tadaima!
Dad, I’m home!

Back in the day, children used polite language toward their parents so you can think of otousan as a vestige of Japan’s hierarchical history. These days though, you’re more likely to hear kids shrieking otousan when demanding something at the supermarket or just being bratty!

Otousan, aisu ga tabetai!
Dad, I want to eat ice cream!

You also use otousan when referring to someone else’s father. Alternatively, otousama (お父様、おとうさま) is an even politer choice, but best reserved for formal occasions.

Otousan wa ikemen desu ne!
Your dad is handsome!

Otousama wa oikutsu desu ka?
How old is your father?

What is the difference between otousan and chichi?

Depending on the context, you can use Otousan to refer to your father or someone else's.

You can use chichi (父、ちち)to say my father when talking to people outside of your family. The “my” part is understood, and therefore optional.

A lot of younger Japanese do actually use otousan in these situations too, but chichi is the more correct (and polite) usage in this context.

Watashi to chichi wa, totemo naka ga ii desu.
I get along really well with my father.

Tsurai toki ni chichi wa itsumo watashi no koto wo sasaete kureta.
My father was always there for me in hard times.

What about chichioya? Isn’t that more common?

Chichioya (ちちおや、ちちおや) means essentially the same thing as chichi. You use it to talk about your father to non-family members.

Watashi no chichioya wa izen, shouboushi deshita.
My father used to be a fireman.

Chichioya wa sukoshi kawatteiru hito desu.
My father is a a little bit weird (lit: a weird person)

This is just my personal feeling, but I would say that chichioya is more commonly used in conversation these days than chichi. Chichioya is a little less formal. When writing, it is better to stick to using chichi.

Other words for dad

There are many ways to say father in Japanese, so I won’t try cover them all but here are a couple more examples:

As in English, this is a babyish way to say dad, but some grown-up women do still use it!

A casual way to refer to your dad. Mostly used by men.

More of the good stuff

Want more? I wrote a similar article on the meaning of okaasan (mother).