What does san in Japanese names mean?

The word san in Japanese names is an honorary title used to show respect to the person being mentioned. It is not used with one's own name. San comes after the name, so a person with the surname Tanaka is referred to as Tanaka-san, with the san following the name. San is used both for men and for women, and it does not distinguish between married or unmarried, so it means all of "Mr", "Mrs", "Miss" and "Ms." in English.

The origin of san is as a simplification of a more formal word, sama. See What are the origins of the suffix for names? Apart from san, and sama, Japanese has a variety of other titles, all added after the person's name. See What is the difference between , , and ? for full details. San in names is not related to the san in the name of mountains, which coincidentally are also called "san" as well as "yama" in Japanese. See What is the name of Mount Fuji? for more about mountain naming in Japanese.


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