2006
03.16

Kyoudai

There are various words in Japanese for brothers and sisters. Starting with eldest brother and eldest sister here are a few:

1.
長男
ちょうなん
長女
ちょうじょ
2.
二男、次男
じなん
二女、次女
じじょ
3.
三男
さんなん
三女
さんじょ

The tricky reading, for me at least, is 二男(じなん). Is it coincidence that both 次 (next) and 二 both have 「じ」readings? It seems a very convenient that either kanji can be used.



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  1. Interesting stuff!
    I was curious, so I’ve been checking various entries in the Yahoo dictionary (大辞泉). Most likely you already know all of this, but just a few things I thought were interesting:
    ① 総領 – the eldest child, regardless of gender.
    ② 一男 – listed as either one boy, or first son.
    ③ 二男, 次男 – listed as only the second son.
    ④ 三男 – listed as three sons, as well as third son.
    ⑤ 一女 – listed as one daughter and first daughter.
    ⑥ 長女 – listed only as low-rank court lady in Heian period.
    ⑦ 次女, 二女 – both listed only as second daughter.
    ⑧ 三女 – listed as three daughters, three women, and third daughter.
    I wonder why there is so much inconsistency? I should mention, even though ⑥ did not reference the eldest daughter, the ⑤ entry did reference ⑥. Do you think that it might be safe to assume that these can be treated like counters, and thus all (prefixed by numbers) could describe daughters/sons, women/men, as well as the ordinal daughter/son? Or is there really a reason for the inconsistencies?

  2. I didn’t know the word 総領(そうりょう). Thanks for the additional input Nathan.
    I would have to assume that 長女 does mean eldest daughter as my Japanese friend and my electronic dictionary both agree.
    Actually, I wasn’t aware of the alternative meanings: multiple daughters/women. Thanks for pointing that out.

  3. Hi Darren,
    I’m not 100% sure on the multiple persons meaning, since the dictionary was so inconsistent. I’ve checked in a counters dictionary site I have, and it gives this:
    http://www.fct.co.jp/fct/kazu_database.cgi?key=%92j&submit=%92T%82%B7&print=50
    So, according to this, 男/女 are indeed counters, but for children alone. Once again, though, accuracy of any website is never unquestionable.

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