■ dear (mainly wife to husband)
■ You. Second person pronoun.
あなた (貴方; also can be seen in literature as 貴女 or 貴男). According to one theory, the word is derived from 彼方, meaning "far away." Japanese avoids addressing another person directly when the speaker wants to express respect. Thus in the old days あなた was used to address someone with respect. Today, this word is used between status equals or from those higher in status to those lower in status. For example, your boss or teacher may address you with あなた, but you should not do the same. The safer course in such occasion would be to use their titles, sparingly; use them only when addressing them is absolutely necessary. Forget about democracy. Japanese is not democratic.
Japanese second person pronouns tend to become words of contempt. Words like 貴様（きさま） and お前（おまえ） were once used for those higher in status, but in modern Japanese, other than between close male friends, the words suggest contempt. Compared with them, あなた sounds more polite. Still, あなた should not be used as liberally as you use the English "you." If overused, you may sound very rude. This may be related to the importance in Japanese of keeping a sense of distance between speakers. As long as the speakers keep pronouns out of their speech, they are floating in a vague, indeterminate space. However, あなた works to determine the border of the space they are in. Imagine yourself forcing someone against the wall demanding to an answer to your question. That's how the addressed may feel if you used あなた (or direct address) too often.
あなた is used in documents issued by public offices and organizations.
■ Dear. A wife may call her husband あなたwhen addressing him directly.
This may signify the closeness of their relationship where no distancing device is required.
Interestingly, husbands rarely address their wives with あなた even when they had used this word before marriage.
This entry was created by Masako Sato.Created 2000-06-12.