Difference Between Kun and San

Kun vs San

Kun and San are just two of the several honorifics used by Japanese people when addressing others. Being gender neutral, these honorifics can be used for both men as well as women making it all the more confusing to understand their differences. Kun and San are used when referring to someone and not in the presence of the person. However, there are rules for using these suffixes before the name of an individual as well as differences between Kun and San that will be highlighted in this article.


San is perhaps the most common and most widely used honorific used to refer to people in Japan. There are many who feel that adding the suffix at the back of the family name of a person is equivalent to referring to someone as Mr. so and so in English. In fact, San is reserved for adults and older people to give them respect. If you are talking about an individual whom you do not know closely, it is advisable to place san at the end of his name while talking in Japanese. Someone who is higher than you in age or social status ought to be addressed as San, to reflect the fact that you are giving him respect. San is gender neutral and can be used for males as well as females.


Young men or boys are the primary target of the honorific Kun that is very commonly used by Japanese people. In general, Kun can be equated with the title of Mr. in English. As in English, Kun is used for men and boys only, but it has to be remembered that the use of this title should not be made for people who are older than you as it can offend them. So your boss at the office can use Kun while referring to you but you must refrain from using Kun for your boss. The use of Kun reflects the love that older people feel towards young people. Men having higher social status often make use of Kun to refer to other younger men to show their love and warmth while at the same time letting others know who the big brother is.

What is the difference between Kun and San in Japanese?

• San is always used for people older and senior than you.

• San is gender neutral and can be used for both males as well as females.

• Kun is a title reserved for young men and boys.

• Those having a higher social status or age show their love for junior males by using Kun for them.

• San can be used safely when you are not sure about the situation.

• San is more formal than Kun.

• San is more common than Kun.

• Use Kun only for those who are socially junior than you.

• Teachers use Kun to refer to boys in their class.