Shōjo, shojo or shoujo (少女 shōjo?) is a Japanese word originally derived from a Chinese expression written with the same characters.[nb 1] The Chinese characters ( and ) literally mean young/little and woman respectively.[1] In Japanese, these kanji refer specifically to a young woman approximately 7–18 years old.[2] Shōjo can often be translated with the English word girl.[3]


Like most kanji compounds, the term shōjo is borrowed from Classical Chinese characters. The term 少女 is pronounced shào nǚ in Mandarin (pinyin romanization), so nyŏ in Korean (McCune-Reischauer romanization), and shōjo in Japanese (Hepburn romanization).

The earliest surviving written record of the term 少女 is on the Book of the Later Han, published in China in the 5th century, in Chapter 86, The myth of Yao, referring to young girls.[4]

盤瓠種,昔帝嚳時患犬戎入寇, 乃訪募天下,有能得犬戎之將吳將軍頭者,購黃金千鎰,邑萬家,又妻以少女[5].

Translation: The myth of Yao: the country is being invaded by barbarians, the king is looking for warriors who are capable of taking the head of the general of the invading army, and for this the king will award (a) thousand Yi [6] of gold, (a) myriad of houses and young girl(s) as their wife/wives.

In the 7th century, the word was introduced into the Japanese language through the adoption of the Chinese-style Ritsuryō legal system, where it referred to females between the ages of 17 and 20.[2][7]

Modern usageEdit

In legal settings, shōjo is a subset of shōnen (meaning "minor") and refers to any female juvenile who has not reached the age of 20.[8]

In Japan, the word shōjo has many applications outside of the law. It refers to anything of, for, or about school-age girls.[9] Examples includeshōjo manga, shōjo culture,[10] shōjo novels, shōjo hobbies, and shōjo fashions, among others.

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