Why お尻 needs an お?

I get that お尻 is an important word, especially if ti’s a fine お尻.
But I thought honorifics are for more “elevated” words :thinking:


Not necessarily. You also say お金 in not-so-super-polite contexts, right? :wink:


it’s used mostly for people who work out and have especially gravity defying buttocks :wink:

am totes makin this up… or am i?


An お尻 is a pretty private area so to me it makes total sense to add the お to make it sound more polite.




From my very limited experience it seems to me that お/ご/御 usage is not hugely productive in modern day-to-day Japanese and is mostly fossilized in set words and expressions. From what I’ve seen it’s always used in some words and expressions (お帰り), often but not always used in others (お金) even in situations where there’s no “elevation” taking place, just out of habit/custom. I have very little experience with honorific language though, maybe it’s used more consistently there.

I’m a complete beginner though, so take what I just said with a massive grain of salt (お塩).


When using 謙譲語 or 尊敬語, you do use お in a regular way. For most verbs (unless they have special forms), you form the 謙譲語 with お + masu-stem + する (お待ちする) and the 尊敬語 with お + masu-stem + になる (お待ちになる). Some verbs also take ご instead, not sure if that’s an actual productive rule or you just have to know the exceptions.

I don’t know whether it is productive for nouns, but there’s definitely cases where adding お or ご makes them more polite or even change the meaning slightly (ご結婚, ご主人, お嬢さん, お子さん come to mind).

As far お尻, I could either imagine that one would have initially used the honorific prefix in order to make talking about something so “improper” a bit more agreeable, or it could also be that it was used ironically from the start. With time, the original honorific meaning was then lost. I could imagine a similar development for お金.


Thank you for the explanations!

I think I read somewhere that the ご/お distinction is simply onyomi vs kunyomi of 御. So for instance you say お金 and お父さん because かね and とうさん are kun, but ご両親 and ご飯 because りょうしん and はん are on.

I don’t think it works 100% of the time though, unfortunately (like most things on/kun, to be fair…)


I can’t think of any other examples off the top of my head, but I think the お is often added when talking about other people’s stuff, and particularly other people’s body parts.

敬語 is extremely complicated, especially for foreigners who haven’t been practicing it their whole lives. My friend who’s a Japanese-English translator says she often has to look things up, especially in formal contexts. Fortunately, foreigners get a certain amount of leeway to mess up without being seen as rude. (Well, at least not more rude than their general foreignness implies.)

1 Like

お陰 might be another idiomatic phrase that I encounter often, if you’re willing to extend “body part” to their shadow/influence…

お陰 appears in various stock “thank you” phrases, too, which would inherently call for more polite language.

It’s as @simias says, on’yomi words usually take ご. So most するverbs get ご. There are some exceptions, like お電話.

1 Like

You also have お手洗(てあら)い for “toilet”. I think when talking about “dirty” things humans often want to put a polite spin on it, right? Like using “restroom” as a euphemism for toilet in English (or saying “behind” for お尻). In Norwegian, instead of “I have to take a shit” we might say “jeg må gjøre mitt fornødne” which can be translated as “I have to do what I have to do” … So thats probably why お尻 needs the お, it’s basically “just one of those things” you’ll see in most languages I’m sure.


This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.