How should “sensei” be formatted when used alone? Capitalising when addressing someone – using their job title, rank or role in place of a name

Example sentence:

Thank you, sensei.

Should it be Sensei, sensei, or sensei?

I searched on Google books and I found many versions. (One problem, though, is that I can’t see the italics.)


It should be…

Thank you, Sensei.

…with initial capital, but without italics. When addressing someone – using their job title, rank or role in place of a name – it’s normal to capitalise. So it would be “Thank you, Captain” (or General, Prime Minister, Chief Engineer, etc.). There are more examples of this here: (rule 6b)

In general, practitioners of Japanese disciplines in the West use titles like sensei or roshi in exactly that way – as if Sensei were the person’s given name, even.


1) If you’re talking about a particular sensei, but not addressing them, or naming them, there’s no need to capitalise. “He’s sensei at the local dojo”, is fine.

2) If you want to emphasise the word, you could italicise: “Thank you, Sensei.

3) When used in English, sensei has a very deferential/reverential feel, and it’s nearly always used as a title. But in Japanese, I understand that it can just mean “a more senior student than myself” … so it could be appropriate in rare cases to use it un-capitalised, as an acknowledgement of the person’s relationship to you, rather than as a title… “Thank you, sensei”.

This would be similar to the difference between “Thank you, Brother“, which you might say to a monk, and, “Thank you, brother“, which you might say to one of your many siblings.

Source : Link , Question Author : alex , Answer Author : ArchContrarian

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