Marriage, Cohabitation & LGBTQ-issues - how to write/vocab use

I just got the vocab lesson for 夫妻: ふさい - married couple, Mr and Mrs, husband and wife.

That gave rise to a couple of questions about the use of this word.
i) Can it be used to simply imply cohabitation - i.e. living together without being married?
ii) What about LGBTQ-issues? Would it be used for two married men or two married women as well?
iii) How about non-married cohabiting LGBTQ-people? Can the meaning extent to them as well?

And a feminist question: How about 妻子 さいし - wife and kids. Is there a way to say husband and kids?

Edit 2:
Feminist question 2: How about 一夫多妻 いっぷたさい - Polygamy (this word pisses me off). But, in theory, not that I think it’s common, but how about one wife with many husbands. Is there a way to say that i Japanese?


Can’t confirm anything properly except edit 2. You can just swap the husband and wife kanji, 一妻多夫 (いっさいたふ).


And a word for polygamy that doesn’t address how many of which gender are married is 複婚.


Interesting stuff. Thank you both for that. @Janime6 @Leebo

Since conservatism is strong in Japan I figured that you might not be able to use “husband and wife” like that, but even if gay marriage isn’t legally recognized in Japan, there are other countries where it is and thus married gay men is something that should need an expression of its own - if 夫妻 for “married couple” isn’t a viable choice. :thinking:

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Did a bit of searching around. It looks like you can use ゲイカップル or 同性カップル just fine. Also 婦妻 (ふさい) for a lesbian couple.

This page has a comic and some information regarding the topic as well. Seems like ふうふ can denote 夫婦, 夫夫, and 婦婦 (or just keep it in hiragana).


I can’t actually confirm how this works, but I will add that this is the same way the words for siblings and cousins work. きょうだい can be spelled 兄弟、姉弟、兄妹、or 姉妹、though the last is technically read しまい. いとこ is usually 従兄弟、but can also follow the same patterns as 兄弟 to represent sex/age of the cousins. Given that this is the case, it wouldn’t surprise me if 夫婦 worked in a similar fashion.


You might get a good response if you asked this on HelloTalk, I’ve found native speakers on there to be very helpful, plus they’ve got the inside scoop.


Is it the Japanese word that pisses you off, or the English word? Or just the concept in general?


I wonder if this implies marriage or not? My first thought is that it doesn’t, but what do I know. I guess you could add to it to make it explicit: 結婚したゲイカップル - or something like that.

The cohabitation-aspect isn’t as obvious. :thinking: Being “together” and a “couple” clearly isn’t the same as living together. Marriage comes with the assumption that you are in fact living together.

I might as well at that as a question: how do you say a married couple live apart by choice?

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Well, the concept and the fact that it’s written as “one man with many wives” in Japanese. This is a very destructive relationship formula for women (if you care about their rights and mental health in general - science will tell us. It’s illegal for a reason where I live).

Same with polygamy, then, since that also means ‘multiple wives’. You can’t use that to refer to multiple husbands either.

Well, I guess that it makes sense for polygamy to use the kanji that it is spelled with from a biological/historical perspective. When it comes to generating as much offspring as possible, it only works this way around I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I get it, I really do. I just let off some steam. :sweat_smile:

I didn’t know you could change around the formula for siblings, so thanks for that tip. I don’t think WK actually included “siblings” as a meaning for しまい, just for きょうだい. Great tip for cousin, as well. It’s good to know these concepts are actually flexible in their meaning. :slight_smile:

Since 姉妹 only refers to female siblings, it makes sense. Meanwhile in Dutch we don’t even have a word for mixed gender siblings. There is only brothers, sisters, and brothers and sisters. Also our words for cousin are gendered in the same as nieces and nephews is.

On a similar not, in Swedish we don’t have a gendered word for cousins, just cousins. For siblings there are, brothers, sisters, and siblings - the same as English in this regard. Since Dutch has a lot of influence from English, it did surprise me that there was no equivalence to “siblings” in Dutch!

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Yes, it surprises (and annoys) me too. On the other hand, we do have single ungendered words to reveal to married couples. Echtpaar. On the other hand, we have a word for spouse (also beautifully ungendered), but I’ve only ever encountered it in crosswords and the like.

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wacht, welk woord? ik kan enkel op echtgenoot/echtgenote of erger nog: man/vrouw komen xp

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Ik gok dat ze eega bedoelt. ^^


Zoals ik al zei, kom het alleen in woordpuzzels tegen.


Before you mentioned it, I hadn’t thought of that word in years and years. It’s a shame it doesn’t get used more, in my opinion.