japanese kanji for brother

What Is The Japanese Kanji For Brother?

Jun 05, 2024Shopify API

The Japanese kanji for brother is 兄 (which also denotes elder brother). Whereas the kanji for younger brother is 弟. Read on to find out more on both these kanjis for brother. Check itr out!

The Japanese language is renowned for its intricate writing system, and one of the most fascinating aspects of it is kanji. 

Kanji, characters derived from Chinese characters, are used to represent words and concepts in the Japanese language. Among the vast array of kanji, those for family members hold special significance. 

In this article, we delve into the kanji for brother, exploring the characters for elder brother (兄) and younger brother (弟) and their cultural significance. 

Additionally, we will examine the components that make up these kanji, shedding light on the hidden meanings they carry.

Japanese Kanji For Brother / Elder Brother Is 兄

The kanji for elder brother is 兄 (pronounced "ani"). This character consists of two components that contribute to its overall meaning:

  • Horizon (一)

The topmost part of the kanji represents the "horizon" and conveys a sense of expansiveness.

It symbolizes the vastness of the sky and the limitless potential that lies ahead. In the context of the elder brother, this component represents his role as a guiding figure who leads the way and provides direction for his younger siblings.

  • Strength (力)

The radical on the bottom, "力," represents "strength" or "power." It embodies the idea of physical and inner strength.

In the context of the elder brother, this component reflects his responsibility to protect and support his family, as well as his position as an authority figure within the household.

Japanese Kanji For Younger Brother Is 弟

The kanji for younger brother is 弟 (pronounced "otouto"). Like the kanji for elder brother, this character comprises two components that contribute to its meaning:

Japanese Kanji For Brother
  • Strength (力

The left part of the kanji is identical to the one found in the kanji for elder brother. Here, it signifies that the younger brother relies on the strength and support of his elder siblings as he grows and learns.

  • Young (少)

The radical on the right, "少," means "young" or "few." It represents the younger brother's age and his position as the youngest member of the sibling group. 

This component highlights the idea that the younger brother is the one who receives guidance and care from the older siblings.

Origin of Kanji 兄 and 弟

The origins of kanji can be traced back to ancient China, where they were initially developed as logographic characters.

These logographs represented ideas or concepts rather than specific sounds, making them useful for communication across different spoken languages. 

Over time, these characters were introduced to Japan, and the Japanese adopted them as part of their writing system, known as kanji.

  • 兄 (Elder Brother)

The kanji for "elder brother," 兄 (ani), has an ancient history that dates back to the oracle bone script of China. 

The oracle bone script, which was inscribed on turtle shells and animal bones for divination purposes during the Shang Dynasty (around 16th to 11th century BCE), shows the early form of 兄 as a pictograph representing a hand grasping a stick or a weapon.

As the script evolved, the character gradually transformed into its current form, representing the concept of an "older male sibling." In the kanji 兄, the top part of the character, resembling a horizon or the sun rising above the horizon, suggests the idea of "older" or "prior." 

The bottom part, denoting "strength" or "power," emphasizes the elder brother's role as a protector and authority figure within the family.

  • 弟 (Younger Brother)

The kanji for "younger brother," 弟 (otouto), also has its roots in ancient Chinese scripts. In the oracle bone script, the character took the shape of a kneeling figure with arms raised, symbolizing a young child or a subordinate position. 

This meaning carried over into the bronze script, where it started to resemble the current form of 弟.

The modern kanji 弟 features two main components: the radical "strength" (力) on the left and the character "young" (少) on the right. 

Together, they signify the "young person" who relies on the strength and support of others, particularly older siblings.

Through cultural exchange and historical interactions between China and Japan, kanji characters like 兄 and 弟 were introduced to Japan and integrated into the Japanese writing system. 

Over the centuries, the Japanese adapted these characters to suit their language and cultural context, leading to the rich and complex kanji system used in Japan today.

Cultural Significance Of 兄

In Japan, family bonds hold immense importance, and the relationship between siblings is cherished and nurtured. 

The use of specific kanji to denote brothers reflects the nuanced understanding of the roles each sibling plays within the family structure. These characters are not only linguistic tools but also cultural symbols that carry deep meanings.

Beyond immediate family dynamics, these kanji are also used in a broader social context. In Japanese society, there is a strong emphasis on hierarchy and respect for elders. 

The kanji for elder brother (兄) embodies these values, while the kanji for younger brother (弟) represents the acknowledgment of the younger generation's role in carrying on traditions and preserving family ties.

Sentence examples of 兄 and 弟

Kanji: 兄 (Elder Brother)

  • 私の兄はとても優しい人です。
    Watashi no ani wa totemo yasashii hito desu.
    Meaning: My elder brother is a very kind person.
  • 兄は家族のリーダーとして尊敬されています。
    Ani wa kazoku no riidaa toshite sonkei sareteimasu.
    Meaning: The elder brother is respected as the leader of the family.
  • 兄は高校を卒業してから海外で働いています。
    Ani wa koukou o sotsugyou shite kara kaigai de hataraiteimasu.
    Meaning: My elder brother has been working abroad since graduating from high school.
  • 兄は料理が得意で、家族をいつも美味しいご飯で満足させてくれます。
    Ani wa ryouri ga tokui de, kazoku o itsumo oishii gohan de manzoku sasete kuremasu.
    Meaning: My elder brother is good at cooking and always satisfies the family with delicious meals.
  • 兄の影響で、私も音楽に興味を持つようになりました。
    Ani no eikyou de, watashi mo ongaku ni kyoumi o motsu you ni narimashita.
    Meaning: Thanks to my elder brother's influence, I have also become interested in music.
  • 兄は弟を守るためにいつも頼りにされています。
    Ani wa otouto o mamoru tame ni itsumo tayori ni sareteimasu.
    Meaning: The elder brother is always relied upon to protect his younger brother.
  • 兄はスポーツが大好きで、週末によくサッカーをしています。
    Ani wa supootsu ga daisuki de, shuumatsu ni yoku sakkaa o shiteimasu.
    Meaning: My elder brother loves sports and often plays soccer on weekends.
  • 兄はお金を貯めて、将来の夢を実現する計画を立てています。
    Ani wa okane o tamete, shourai no yume o jitsugen suru keikaku o tateteimasu.
    Meaning: My elder brother is saving money and making plans to realize his future dreams.
  • 兄は学業と仕事を両立させるために努力しています。
    Ani wa gakugyou to shigoto o ryouritsu saseru tame ni doryoku shiteimasu.
    Meaning: The elder brother is making efforts to balance his studies and work.
  • 兄は妹の相談にいつも親身になって聞いてくれます。
    Ani wa imouto no soudan ni itsumo shinmi ni natte kiite kuremasu.
    Meaning: My elder brother always listens attentively and empathetically to his younger sister's concerns.

Kanji: 弟 (Younger Brother)

  • 私の弟はまだ小学生です。
    Watashi no otouto wa mada shougakusei desu.
    Meaning: My younger brother is still in elementary school.
  • 弟はとても元気で、いつも笑顔で過ごしています。
    Otouto wa totemo genki de, itsumo egao de sugoshiteimasu.
    Meaning: My younger brother is very energetic and always spends time with a smile.
  • 弟は足が速く、学校の陸上競技でよく賞を取ります。
    Otouto wa ashi ga hayaku, gakkou no rikujou kyougi de yoku shou o torimasu.
    Meaning: My younger brother is fast, and he often wins awards in school track and field events.
  • 弟は将来医者になる夢を持っています。
    Otouto wa shourai isha ni naru yume o motteimasu.
    Meaning: My younger brother has a dream of becoming a doctor in the future.
  • 弟は姉に憧れて、いつも彼女の行動を見習っています。
    Otouto wa ane ni akogarete, itsumo kanojo no koudou o minarutteimasu.
    Meaning: My younger brother looks up to his elder sister and always tries to learn from her actions.
  • 弟はお絵描きが得意で、よく美しい絵を描いています。
    Otouto wa oekaki ga tokui de, yoku utsukushii e o kaiteimasu.
    Meaning: My younger brother is skilled at drawing and often creates beautiful paintings.
  • 弟は勉強が苦手ですが、努力して成績を上げようとしています。
    Otouto wa benkyou ga nigate desu ga, doryoku shite seiseki o ageyou to shiteimasu.
    Meaning: My younger brother is not good at studying, but he is making an effort to improve his grades.
  • 弟はスポーツに熱心で、サッカーチームの一員として活躍しています。
    Otouto wa supootsu ni nesshin de, sakkaa chiimu no ichiin toshite katsuyaku shiteimasu.
    Meaning: My younger brother is passionate about sports and actively participates in a soccer team.
  • 弟はいつも冒険心が旺盛で、新しいことに挑戦するのが好きです。
    Otouto wa itsumo boukenshin ga ousei de, atarashii koto ni chousen suru no ga suki desu.
    Meaning: My younger brother always has a strong sense of adventure and enjoys taking on new challenges.
  • 弟は兄に頼ってばかりいるわけではなく、自立心も持っています。
    Otouto wa ani ni tayotte bakari iru wake dewa naku, jiritsushin mo motteimasu.
    Meaning: My younger brother not only relies on his elder brother but also has a sense of independence.


The Japanese kanji for brother, 兄 and 弟, capture the essence of sibling relationships in Japanese culture. 

These characters not only represent the elder and younger brothers but also embody the values of strength, support, respect, and responsibility within the family structure. 

Understanding the significance of these kanji enriches our appreciation of Japanese language and culture, shedding light on the profound importance of familial bonds in Japanese society. 

By exploring the components of these kanji, we gain a deeper understanding of the hidden symbolism they hold, further enhancing our grasp of their cultural significance.

More articles