If you have been wondering about the right way to say “god” in Japanese, you have come to the perfect source. In this vocabulary lesson, I am going to tell you 14 Japanese words for “god”, their meanings, English translations, and kanji. I will also differentiate between the best words for Japanese deities and the Christian God.
The basic Japanese word and kanji for “god” are “kami” and “神”. However, the politer and more respectful word kamisama (神様) is more commonly used when referring to “God” or one of the Japanese deities. For the “Christian God”, the word tenpu (天父) or the English loanword goddo (ゴッド) can be used.
Read on, if you want to know all 14 words that can be used to say “god” in Japanese. We will start with the most basic and common Japanese words for “god“. After that, we will look at a couple of loanwords from different languages, including the Ainu language. Last but not least we will focus on words for the Christian God and conclude with the names of some famous gods.
How to Say “God” in Japanese
- kami – 神
- kamisama – 神様
- kamisan – 神さん
- ookami – 大神
- oomikami – 大御神
- kamui – カムイ
- deusu – デウス
- goddo – ゴッド
- tenpu – 天父
- tentei – 天帝
- tenshu – 天主
- shinigami – 死神
- raijin – 雷神
- fujin – 風神
1. Kami – The Basic Japanese Word and Kanji for “God”
Kami and 神 (かみ) are the basic Japanese word and kanji for “god“, but they can also mean “deity“, “divinity“, or “spirit“. Since it is not the most polite word it is more commonly used to talk about a “god” or “gods” in general. It can also be used for a well-respected or highly-skilled person.
I have also seen the word kami (神) used when fans talk about an exceptionally awesome song or setlist. So feel free to use it whenever you adore someone or something: a book, an author, an artist, an anime character, etc.
2. Kamisama – Most Respectful Way to Say “God” in Japanese
Kamisama (神様) is the most respectful way to say “god” in Japanese. It’s the basic Japanese word and kanji for god (神) combined with the honorific title sama (様), which is added to make a word sound politer and more respectful. This is the most commonly used word when talking about god in Japanese.
Besides “god“, kamisama (神様) can also be translated as “ace” or “king” and be used as a title for superior or “godlike” people with exceptional talent or skills.
God (honorific language)
god (honorific language)
god (amongst men)
Read more » How to Say “King” in Japanese
3. Kamisan – Polite Word for “God” in Japanese
The word kamisan (神さん) is a politer version of kami (神), the basic word for “god“, but slightly less polite than the extremely respectful kamisama (神様). San (さん) is an honorific title that adds politeness. While you will find this word in the dictionary, it is not commonly used in spoken Japanese.
4. Ookami – Translates as “Great God” or “Sacred God”
Ookami (大神) is another word that can be used to say “god” in Japanese, but it is better translated as “great god” or “sacred god“. The first character 大 (oo) means “big” or “great” and it can also be combined with the honorific suffix sama (様), ookamisama (大神様), to make it even politer.
The alternative and less commonly used reading for 大神 (おおかみ, ookami) is daijin (だいじん).
god (archaism, Honorific language)
god (archaism, Honorific language)
great god (extremely respectful)
sacred god (extremely respectful)
5. Oomikami – Word Often Used for the “Goddess of the Sun”
Another very respectful term for “god” is the Japanese word oomikami (大御神). It is an old word, also called archaism. Nowadays it is most commonly used for Amaterasu (天照), the goddess of the sun and one of the major deities in Japan, who is also often referred to as Amaterasu Oomikami (天照大御神).
Goddess of the Sun
6. Kamui – The Word “God” or “Deity” in Ainu Language
Kamui (カムイ) translates as “god“, “deity“, “divinity“, “spirit“, or also “kami” and is another Japanese word that can be used when talking about or referring to the divine. The word is derived from “kamuy” the Ainu language, which was spoken by the indigenous people in Hokkaido, the north of Japan.
In the Ainu language and mythology “kamuy” was the word used for spiritual or divine beings. Nowadays, Kamui is sometimes used as a name for boys. The main protagonist of the manga and anime “X“, for example, is called Kamui Shiro.
god (from Ainu “kamuy”)
7. Deusu – Latin Loanword for “God” in Japanese
A less commonly used word for “god” in Japanese is deusu (デウス). It is a loanword and derived from “deus“, which is the Latin word for “god“. While it translates and means the same it is most commonly used in games, anime, or manga as their title or name (especially for monsters like in FF).
God (from Latin “Deus”)
8. Goddo – Loanword for “(Christian) God” in Japanese
Goddo (ゴッド) is an English loanword that translates as “god“. In Japanese, it is especially used for the Christian God. I don’t recommend using it for Japanese deities, since in that case, it sounds less sincere and respectful than the Japanese word kamisama (神様).
9. Tenpu – “Heavenly Father” or “God”
The Japanese word tenpu (天父) translates as “Heavenly Father” or “God” and is solely used for the Christian God. It is a more respectful sounding term than the loanword goddo (ゴッド) and consists of the Japanese word and kanji for “sky” or “heaven”, ten (天), and the kanji for father, which is 父.
10. Tentei – Means “God”, “Supreme Deity”, “King of Heaven”
The Japanese word tentei (天帝) translates as “God“, “Supreme Deity“, or “King of Heaven“. It can be used for the Christian God, the ancient Chinese god Shangdi, or Shakra (Sakra), who according to Hindu mythology is the king or ruler of heaven.
Shangdi (Chinese deity)
Sakra (King of Heaven in Hindu mythology)
11. Tenshu – Means “Lord of Heaven” or “God”
Tenshu (天主) is another Japanese word that is especially used for the Christian God and translates as “Lord of Heaven” or “God“. It is also made up of ten (天), the Japanese word for “sky”, and the word shu (主), which translates as “(one’s) master” or “Lord“.
Lord of Heaven
12. Shinigami – Japanese “God of Death” or “Grim Reaper”
Shinigami (死神) is the Japanese word specifically for “God of Death“, “Death“, or the “Grim Reaper“. The word is only used when referring to death deities, especially the Japanese personifications of the Death or a death god. There are a couple of other ways to say Grim Reaper in Japanese, though.
God of Death
Read More » How to Say “Death” in Japanese (including how to say “Angel of Death” or “(Grim) Reaper” in Japanese)
13. Raijin – The Japanese God of Thunder or Lightning
The word raijin (雷神) means “Thunder God“, “God of Thunder“, or “God of Lightning“. According to Japanese mythology, he is the god of lightning, thunder, and storms (source) and is often found in temples where he is depicted standing atop a cloud. His other names are Kaminari-sama or Raiden-sama.
God of Thunder
God of Lightning
14. Fujin – The Japanese God of Wind
Fujin (風神) literally translates as “Wind God” or “God of Wind” in Japanese. He is one of the oldest Shinto gods and is associated with the wind element. In temples, he is usually portrayed with large bags of winds, which he carries over his shoulders, and placed next to the god of thunder, Raijin.
God of Wind