What are the origins of the san suffix for names?

The word san (さん) is a derivation from a more respectful word sama (). Sama means "appearance", but it also became used to show respect. San is usually used to refer to people other than oneself. San has no kanji form and is written in hiragana.

San may also be used in place of an honorific prefix when talking about some things like fish, as in sakana-san (魚さん). However, the san in the names of mountains is not related to the san used for people. See What is the name of Mount Fuji?

See also What is Japanese respect language? for more on Japanese titles and respect language.


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