Onii-chan: Meaning, Origin And Curiosities

Onii-chan is one of the most popular expressions on the Internet that comes from Japanese, and which is used to refer to the relationship of younger brother / older brother; sometimes pronounced ani . This relationship does not necessarily have to be filial, it can also be used for relationships of friendship or deep respect and admiration.

This compound word is constructed through two terms: Onii  u or nii , which refers to an older brother or head of a clan. This, when joined with the suffix -chan , implies an expression of love or affection. Therefore, the expression can be translated as “little brother”, but with a certain special feature.

If we take it to Spanish, it could be interpreted as the application of a diminutive on the name of the subject in question; for example: Juancito, Carlitos, etc.

In general, those who receive this type of qualification are serious, responsible people with great values, who also have a deferential attitude towards those around them.


As mentioned above, the word is derived from two common expressions: onii , which means “brother” or “boss”; and the suffix –chan, which is a kind of diminutive. In the end the literal translation is obtained: «little brother».

In the case where you want to mention the older sisters in an affective way, the correct expression would be onee-chan .

Also, the term onii  has a much deeper meaning because it not only refers to the older brother, but also to an important figure who has the capabilities of being the leader of a group or clan.

Therefore, an “older brother” is someone who has a series of virtues and values ​​that earn him the respect and admiration of others.

However, with the passage of time it has been seen that this expression has been used in manga and anime, which has produced the popularization of this word and even the obtaining of other types of meanings:

-It is used to express the platonic love of a girl towards a man older than her.

-It is used to show affection towards a person who is physically attractive.


Some important facts about the appearance and popularity of the word can be highlighted:

-It is estimated that it appeared for the first time in the Urban Dictionary portal in August 2007, as a term that refers to a gesture of affection towards an elderly person of Japanese origin.

-In 2008 began the process of dissemination on the network through a series of videos posted on YouTube that explained the meaning of the word used in a couple of animes.

-Videos became popular and spreading rapidly among Internet users. So much so that inclusions of the expression began to be made as parodies of animated series for children, such as My Little Pony .

-The popularity was such that much of the material published on YouTube was also shared on Facebook pages, where users were asked what their favorite characters were at the time of saying this expression.

-In 2015 the term was already an important part of the set of memes most used on the Internet, thanks to the fact that most of these showed girls with love interests towards strong and attractive characters.


Here are some interesting facts about this expression:

-It is not only used as a gesture of affection towards the older brother, but also towards any filial and non-filial figure, so it can also be extended to friends and even acquaintances. The really important thing is to highlight the admiration and affection that you feel for that person.

-The anime  Oniichan dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne!  shows the relationship of Akito and Akiko, two brothers who were separated after the death of their parents and who later manage to meet again. This production highlights the use of this expression that hints at Akiko’s respect, love and support for her older brother, Akito.

-In general, it is believed that the characters of the onii-chan type  are more serious, annoying or with a tendency to use their situation as a certain superiority over those who are younger than this.

-In contrast to this more serious figure, there is the otouto , a person who is described as the younger brother within the family, school and even personal context. He is usually seen as a kind of apprentice, spoiled and, to some extent, dependent on whoever acts as an older brother.

-Thanks to the above, it is possible to add the word kyodai , which refers to the relationship between siblings. Also, a filial relationship does not necessarily have to exist for this word to be used.

-It is only used among men, since there is a different word for women.

-The importance of this word lies mainly in the Japanese value system and traditions, which emphasizes the role of the eldest son. She is the person who will take care of the family and the parents when they grow old.

-According to Urban Dictionary, there are three types of suffixes used to determine different degrees of relationship between friends and family. For example, -san is the most used and points to the older brother; -chan  indicates the same thing but with a special and affective connotation; and –sama  means something similar but has a more formal component.

-In this same portal, this expression is admitted as a word associated with the person with whom you have sexual relations.

-Other words of relevance are: -kun , used among men and more informally than -sansenpai , who in a study context is linked to those classmates who are in a higher grade or course; and  -dono , an ancient expression used in samurai times that is the highest expression of respect for the master.


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