8 junio, 2024

Onii-chan: what it is, meaning, origin and curiosities

Onii-chan It is one of the most popular expressions on the Internet that comes from Japanese, and which is used to refer to the relationship from younger brother to older brother; sometimes it is pronounced ani. This relationship does not necessarily have to be filial, it can also be used for friendship relationships or deep respect and admiration.

This compound word is built through two terms: Onii or or nii, which refers to an older brother or head of a clan. This, when joined with the suffix –chan, implies an expression of love or affection. Therefore, the expression can be translated as «little brother», but with a certain special feature.

If we take it to Spanish, it could be interpreted as the application of a diminutive on the name of the subject in question; for example: Juancito, Carlitos, etc.

In general, those who receive this type of qualification are serious, responsible people with great values, who also have a deferential attitude towards those around them.


As mentioned above, the word is a derivative of two common expressions: onii, which meant “brother” or “boss”; and the suffix –chan, which is kind of diminutive. In the end, the literal translation is obtained: “little brother”.

In the event that you want to mention the older sisters in an affective way, the correct expression would be onee-chan.

Furthermore, the term onii it has a much deeper meaning because it refers not only to the older brother, but also to an important figure who has the abilities to be the leader of a group or clan.

Therefore, an «older brother» is someone who possesses a series of virtues and values ​​that earn him the respect and admiration of others.

However, with the passage of time it has been seen that this expression has been used in manga and anime, which has produced the popularization of this word and even obtained other types of meanings:

It is used to express a girl’s platonic love for a man older than her.
It is used to show affection towards a person who is physically attractive.


Some important facts about the appearance and popularity of the word can be highlighted:

-It is estimated that it appeared for the first time in the Urban Dictionary portal in August 2007, as a term that refers to a gesture of affection towards an older person of Japanese origin.

-In 2008, the process of spreading it online began through a series of videos posted on YouTube that explained the meaning of the word used in a couple of animes.

-The videos became popular and quickly spread among Internet users. So much so that they even began to include the expression as parodies of animated series for children, such as my little Pony.

-The popularity was such that a large part of the material published on YouTube was also shared on Facebook pages, where users were asked what their favorite characters were when saying this expression.

-In 2015 the term was already an important part of the set of most used memes on the Internet, thanks to the fact that most of these showed girls with love interests towards strong and attractive characters.


Here are some interesting facts about this expression:

-It is not only used as a gesture of affection towards the older brother, but also towards any filial and non-filial figure, so it can also be extended to friends and even acquaintances. What is really important is to emphasize the admiration and affection that you feel for that person.

-The anime Oniichan dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne! shows the relationship of Akito and Akiko, two brothers who were separated after the death of their parents and who later manage to meet again. This production highlights the use of this expression that reveals Akiko’s respect, love and support for her older brother, Akito.

-In general, it is believed that the characters of the type onii-chan they are more serious, annoying or with a tendency to use their situation of certain superiority over those who are less than this.

-In contrast to this more serious figure, there is the autumn, a person who is described as the younger brother within the family, school and even personal context. He is usually seen as something of a learner, spoiled and, to a certain extent, dependent on the one who acts as the older brother.

-Thanks to the above, it is possible to add the word kyodai, which refers to the relationship between siblings. Likewise, there does not necessarily have to be a filial relationship for this word to be used.

-It is only used among men, since there is a different word for women.

-The importance of this word lies mainly in the Japanese system of values ​​and traditions, which emphasizes the role of the eldest son. He is the person who will take care of the family and the parents when they get old.

-According to Urban Dictionary, there are three types of suffixes used to determine different degrees of relationship between friends and family. For example, -saint It is the most used and points to the older brother; -chan indicates the same thing but with a special and affective connotation; and –sama means something similar but has a more formal component.

-In this same portal, this expression is admitted as a word associated with the person with whom one has sexual relations.

-Other words that are relevant are: -kunused among men and more informally than -saint; senpai, which in a study context is linked to those classmates who are in a higher grade or course; and -donoan ancient expression used in the time of the samurai that is the maximum expression of respect towards the teacher.

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