Girls, girls, girls...when to use joshi, shoujo, onna no ko?

I think thread title says it all…
Just a little confused which word to pick depending on girl age/ context?


Here are some monolingual definitions, some translated

少女 - a young 女の子
女の子 - a female child
女子 - 女の子, 女

As you can see, 女子 is the broadest of the three. Basically every female is included. And despite having the 子 kanji in there, it is not required that they be children. I’m not sure elderly women would be included, but the definition doesn’t exclude that possibility. In practice it tends to be college age women and younger.


In my experience:

女子 is the more general term used often for young women.
少女 is a bit formal word for girls that’s used more in written contexts.
女の子 is commonly used for (very) young girls in formal contexts but also more informally for older girls (teens).

A google image search might help get some idea.

Also, this might be helpful:女


Now we’re at it, what’s the difference between 女性 and 女子?

Edit: Turns out that nifty Kanji Damage link includes that on the list. Thanks @Starker

It’s the difference between a girl and a woman. :wink:

For example, here’s an interesting discussion about when one becomes the other (in Japanese):

女性 is female, rather than girl or woman.

It often is, but it can be used to refer to women as well:女性

It’s also used in the sense of “women’s”, like women’s manga.

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Thank you guys, much appreciated!

I totes agree that 女性 can mean and is often translated as “women”. It’s the word used for the “women-only cars” on the trains in metropolitan areas (女性専用車両 to the effect of “cars for uniquely female use”)

It seems to me that it’s mainly used when talking about a woman or women in general, rather than actually referring to a specific person.

Sure, and it’s often used in compound words, but as I understand, it can also be used to refer to a specific person, like for example その若い女性.

Here’s a series of posts that may help explain the usage a bit more (keep in mind that it’s written for a language practice site, so the English is not perfect):


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