Talking about siblings in Japanese and Chinese

April 10th is National Siblings Day! In English, talking about siblings is pretty simple when compared to Japanese and Chinese. Let’s take a look.


兄弟 xiōng dì siblings (brother(s))
姐妹 jiě meì siblings (sister(s))
双胞胎 shuāng bāo tāi twins
独生子 dú shēng zǐ the only son
独生女 dú shēng nǚ the only daughter
哥哥 gē gē older brother
姐姐 jiě jiě older sister
弟弟 dì dì younger brother
妹妹 meì meì younger sister

[Note: The words for older brother, older sister, younger brother and younger sister can all be pronounced with a neutral tone on the second syllable in colloquial speech.]

If you have more than one older brother, the first older brother will be: 大哥 dà gē
The second older brother: 二哥 èr gē
The third older brother: 三哥 sān gē

The first younger brother: 大弟 dà dì
The second younger brother: 二弟 èr dì
The third younger brother: 三弟 sān dì

The first older sister: 大姐 dà jiě
The second older sister: 二姐 èr jiě
The third older sister: 三姐 sān jiě

The first younger sister: 大妹 dà meì
The second younger sister: 二妹 èr meì
The third younger sister: 三妹 sān meì



 兄 ani older brother (my own)
 お兄さん oniisan older brother (someone else’s)
 姉 ane older sister (my own)
 お姉さん oneesan older sister (someone else’s)
 弟 otouto younger brother (my own)
 弟さん otoutosan younger brother (someone else’s)
 妹 imouto younger sister (my own)
 妹さん imoutosan younger sister (someone else’s)
 兄弟 kyoudai siblings (brothers or brother(s) and sister(s))
 姉妹 shimai siblings (sisters)
 双子 futago twin
 一人っ子 hitorikko only child

It may seem like a lot, but don’t get overwhelmed! Once you attach these terms to real people in your life, they’ll become easier to remember.