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The word "sibling" looks like a very convenient word for me. It refers to both "brother" and "sister". Actually, there is no equivalent word in Japanese. We have only ani (older brother), ototo (younger brother), ane (older sister), and imoto (younger sister). So, in a strict sense, there are even no words in the Japanese vocabulary that are identical with "brother" or "sister". Whenever we talk about siblings, the idea of "older" and "younger" follows. This has much to do with our culture.

Sure, we have kyodai (older and/or younger brother) and shimai (older and/or younger sister) to refer to brothers and sisters more generally. But they are just another ways of reading the kanji of ani & ototo, and ane & imoto combined. Still haunted by that idea and no match for "sibling".

I have a brother. If I will say this in Japanese, I have no choice but to say something like "I have (a) younger brother." If you have a brother and a sister, chances are that you have either an older brother and an older sister, or older and younger, younger and older, or younger and younger. If you have two brothers and three sisters, well, eh, .... Why not the word like "siblings"!

I think it's high time for the Japanese people to create a new word that is as reasonable as "sibling".


well, the Education ministry may not like it, but how about (in Katakana of course):


can never have too many gairaigo, I say :)

In Japanese class we learnt kyodai as sibling. I've also seen this in multiple text-books. Are we, the beginners being cheated? I've never heard of shimai!

Good idea, Kurt! It's no bad to take in foreign words that have no equivalents in Japanese. ...But ,eh, the only trouble could be the sound of "shibu"(of bitter or rough taste). ;)

Darren, we often use "kyodai" with the intention of including sisters, as in "Gokyodai wa?" (Do you have any siblings?), simply because we have no other proper words. I wonder how Japanese women feel about the usage.

I thought kyodai meant all of the siblings together....is this not true? :o

den4 :o

You can say "kyodai" for that meaning as well. No problem. However, since its original meaning is "brother(s)", I find it a little strange. ;)