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From Old Japanese. Originally a compound of (sa, that, pronominal indicating a person, place, thing, or direction in the middle distance) +‎ (ma, likeness, way, similarity, suffix indicating a quality).[1]


(with rendaku when used as a suffix in some combinations)

Alternative formsEdit

  • ざま (-zama) (when used as a suffix in some combinations)


さま (rōmaji sama)

  1. a person's appearance (as of body, or style, or face, etc.)
  2. the state or situation of a thing
    鋭敏 (えいびん)感覚 (かんかく) (するど)いこと。また、そのさま[1]
    Eibin. Kankaku ga surudoi koto. Mata, sono sama.
    Eibin. For the senses to be sharp. Or, the state of being such.
  3. the general trend, tenor, or feel of a thing
  4. one's social station, status, or quality
  5. the way or means of doing something, how one does something
  6. the reason or circumstances for something

Derived termsEdit


さま (rōmaji sama)

  1. (archaic, honorific) second-person pronoun: you, you all
  2. (archaic, honorific) third-person distal pronoun: he, she, they (distant from both speaker and listener)

Usage notesEdit

Used primarily by women of the red-light districts of the Edo period.[1]

The pronoun senses have largely fallen into disuse. These originated as abbreviations of longer forms 君様 (kimisama, literally lord + that way), 方様 (katasama, literally that side + that way), or 貴様 (kisama, literally noble + that way), with the -sama suffix (see below) developing into an independent use.


さま (rōmaji -sama)

  1. (honorific) polite personal suffix: honorable, Mr., Ms.
    吉田 (よしだ) (さま) ()られました。
    Yoshida-sama ga koraremashita.
    Mr. [honorable] Yoshida has come here.
  2. (honorific) attaching to nouns or other nominals: a politeness marker that often has no direct translation, replacing copula です (​desu)
    苦労 (くろう) (さま)
    You have done well [honorable].
  3. attaching to specific nouns or other nominals: that way, that direction
     (さか) (さま) (よこ) (さま)
    sakasama, yokosama
    backwards, sideways
  4. (archaic) attaching to verbs: just as (indicating the specific time when the verb is happening)
  5. attaching to verbs: the way of doing something, how one does something (often undergoes rendaku, changing -sama to -zama)
     (すわ) (さま)
    how one sits

Usage notesEdit

The honorific senses developed out of euphemistic use of the noun sense of sama, “that way”, as an oblique form of reference, starting from around the Muromachi period.[1]

The -sama suffix after personal names is more respectful than the everyday さん (-san), and is generally only used when being very polite. Gender-neutral. This is sometimes glossed as honorable, but honorable is also used as a title, such as for judges or governors or certain ranks of nobility, whereas -sama is purely about politeness and relative social closeness.

Derived termsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1988, 国語大辞典(新装版) (Kokugo Dai Jiten, Revised Edition) (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Shogakukan
  2. ^ 2006, 大辞林 (Daijirin), Third Edition (in Japanese), Tōkyō: Sanseidō, →ISBN