The Meaning of the Term “Ji” in the Indian Culture: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

At Arunachala Ashram in Canada

In the Indian culture, we sometimes add the word “ji” at the end of someone’s name to convey respect.

For example, if someone’s name is Ashok, and we want to convey warmth and respect, we call him Ashok-ji. If someone’s name is Maya, we call her Maya-ji.

However, in the Indian culture, no one will ask or demand that we add “ji” when addressing them to show respect. That would be very uncool. It would actually be humorous. It is up to us when we want to add the “ji” after the name of the person. There is no compulsion that we have to add “ji” to the name of everyone we meet and greet.

Typically, the older people when calling on younger people or children will not use the term “ji”, but just call them by their name. Similarly, friends greeting each other will not add the term “ji” to the names of their friends as they are equals.

Younger people when talking to their parents will automatically add “ji” after the designation. For example, the father may be called Papa-ji or Bapu-ji (instead of just Papa or Bapu) and the mother may be referred to as Mata-ji (instead of just Mata).

Grandfather and Grandmother on father’s side are called Dada-ji and Dadi-ji respectively. Grandfather and Grandmother on mother’s side are called Nana-ji and Nani-ji respectively.

In referring to one’s teacher, one typically calls the person Master-ji or Guru-ji, etc.

In the Western world, this phenomenon of adding the term “ji” after someone’s name is not well understood.

Some modern Satsang teachers have made “ji” simply part of their chosen spiritual nickname, hence forcing people to use the respectful term “ji”, whether they want to or not, when they refer to such teachers.

For example, let us say that a satsang teacher has chosen the spiritual nickname of Foo. Now Foo is the actual name. By adding “ji” to it, the name itself is made into Fooji. Everything then gets convoluted.

Everyone referring to Mr. Foo is forced to call Mr. Foo, Fooji! This essentially means “Respected Foo.” The option to call Mr. Foo, simply Foo or Mr. Foo is thus taken off the table. The name Fooji is hence imposed on the innocent whether they wish to use the term “ji” to refer to the person or not.

Recently, I have noticed that some of the students of such teachers have also started adding “ji” to their own made up spiritual nicknames. This practice of adding “ji” to one’s own name has always struck me as a bit odd and also comical and shows a cultural misunderstanding.

The practice of adding the “ji” behind one’s own name is a distinctly Western practice based on a misunderstanding of the Indian culture and how the term “ji” has been historically used and is actually used. Such a practice appears to be an attempt by some people (based on insecurity) to ask others for some respect when referring to them. This addition of “ji” as part of a name reflects the fear that no respect will be forthcoming without the added “ji” to the name.

There are other examples as well of people adopting high sounding spiritual names, etc. All such things, of course, have some entertainment value and I do not diminish that part of the spiritual circus.

For a true devotee, however, change of name and dress for outward show is not important. Real spiritual growth and Self Realization have absolutely nothing to do with such things at all.

Just my two cents and homespun wisdom for the day.

Please feel free to share this to help educate the new people just getting on to the spiritual path on the proper use of the term “ji”.

If you disagree with my views, please share that as well. I am happy to hear opposing perspectives and be corrected. Thank you.





75 thoughts on “The Meaning of the Term “Ji” in the Indian Culture: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

  1. Thanks for clarifying this for me. Although I have been on the path of Sufism for some 45 years, and my teacher comes from India, there are indeed many misconceptions we Americans have, despite our deep respect for the ancient Indian culture. For instance, I looked this up because an Indian friend attached it to my name, and I assumed it meant something akin to endearment. But it is about respect! Now I know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A nice and concise article.

    You seem to be aiming a little bit of criticism at Mooji and Gangaji here (especially choosing the word “Foo” as your example). Both are realized disciples of Poonja-ji and certainly deserve the honorific moniker. If there are any other western “Wannabe-ji'” advaita teachers you may be referring to I have not heard of them, although I’m confident such people may exist.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ji or Jii can also mean spirit or soul as well as “to pay respectful attention to.” Thus, in the case of my adopted name Happijii, which is based upon Ramana’s statement of “Happiness is true nature” and the notion (?) of one great spirit, the name could serve as a constant reminder to remember or investigate into the origin of all risings (Vichara). So, I don’t see a forcing or a negative in it. As Buddha might say, “happiness never decreases by being shared.” One may even discover happiness is indeed “true nature…” But, yes, all words are secondary superimpositions…including these.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Like the simple way conveying our respects to a person, by suffixing -ji to their names (or “job-titles”), Indians (and many Asians too) have thehabit of using –sir, in their “respectful convesrations”; which, in fact stands for “Arya” is Hindi & Sanskrit and “Ayya”. This is seen in the way Indians write letters too.

    Another distortion that is is taking place is – using titles of Swami, Brahma Sri, Paramahans with their names!! All by themselves.

    In a leading Indian Newspaper, one can see a (self-) Swami serving with his own hands– beef

    With the youth in India now absorbing the Western Ways at a fast rate, it will not be too late before they learn to calling everyone with their first names.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. With out knowing the concept of word ‘Ji’, nothing can be said as imposed upon the innocent .. Referring to Fooji .
    And respect doesn’t come from words ….so it hardly matters if anyone does attach a ji to themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I really enjoyed this article. I had gathered that the term was one of respect and not used automatically or at all times but still had confusion about the actual meaning and relational significance. I will now always use the term in the traditional cultural way intended. I agree that the addition of -ji to ones own name is comical and demonstrates a confused understanding of the term.

    Thank you Dr. Harsh-ji. (Western convention of respect requires the inclusion of the prefix Dr.!)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well explained. Clarifies a lot. To me ‘Sri’ is the same as ‘ji’. The same as English ‘Sir’ meaning s(uper)i(o)r re s(en)i(o)r meaning elder or ‘Holy and Venerable Father’… Thx.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sir one thing I want to ask is if some elderly person starts calling you with ji after ur name and you r younger to them . as in my case I feel odd should I request them not to use it as it feels odd.


  9. I Like the article. According to indian culture the word ji is used to give respect show their affection to the elders and respected great personalties..

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dr Luthar Ji, I thank you taking the time to clearly (and cleverly) explain your point of view on the proper use of “Ji”! Prior to reading your article I struggled with when and if it was appropriate, or even expected! Now I see the Ji is in the mind of the beholder! Thank you, Sir.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Suffixing Ji is not Indian culture but North Indian culture centered around Hindi/Urdu geography natives. All non Hindi states in India never use Ji . Instead each language has its own form. Like Avare(ಅವರೇ)/some times GaLe in Kannada, gAru in Telugu, etc. But prefixing Shri/Shrimati is accepted across India in most languages. Ji seems to be Mogul era inherited material in North India. Often we observe, any North India specific culture is being branded as Indian culture. India is too diverse for anyone to claim any regional culture as Indian culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Language and cultural customs are so easily misunderstood. We are human in our mistakes and errors indeed. Perhaps visitors to other countries try so earnestly to be absorbed in a culture without obviously sticking out! Quite hard! Lovely erudition. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. By the way, as a Brazilian matriarchal, eclectic pagan (Taoist/Shamanist) who has always felt deep admiration for the Hindu culture and its rich expressions from the north to the south of the country, I was amazed to learn the following connection between the term ‘shri’ and Maa Laskhmi (I confess I didn´t know that):
    Excerpt from the page: “…In India, Sri Lakshmi, The Goddess of wealth is also referred as Sri. Sri, Shri (Sri) 0r Shree, — is pronounced halfway between Sree and Shree — which is a Sanskrit title of veneration, a Hindu honorific stemming from the Vedic conception of prosperity. …” (end of the excerpt)
    So, jaye Maa Ji!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dr. Luthar-ji:

    Would the use of “ji” be appropriate with Namaste when meeting or leaving the presence of a respected person but their name is unknown, i.e., Namaste-ji?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am NOT a fan of giving certain people more respect than others. To refer to someone with a ji at the end of their name because they are your parents or they are older seems unhealthy to me. To me — we are ALL souls and whether we have 2 legs, 4 legs, wings, fins, are black or white or purple, or 1 month old or 88 yrs old — it doesn’t matter. We are ALL equally worthy of respect, love, joy and happiness. It simply is our birthright no matter what our age is or how many degrees we have. Quite honestly — the souls that are coming in now have a MUCH higher frequency with MUCH more awareness — so if you want to play by those rules — wouldn’t the younger generations have the ji at the end of their name?

    I personally prefer to treat all animals and humans as equals no matter what!

    I have taught both privately and in schools (piano) and I ALWAYS have my students refer to me as Tara. One school told me that my students wouldn’t respect me if I was not addressed as Ms. X. I completely disagreed and refused to change the way my students addressed me. My students loved being valued equally as me and truly appreciated being treated with respect. I was their favorite and they respected me more because I respected them with equality!

    Just my two cents!

    Liked by 1 person

    • By denying individuals their right to show respect in their own chosen and preferred way, you refuse to show them respect. I don’t hold with the idea of ‘honourifics’, no matter what the culture, preferring to give respect by what I do not what I say. What gives me the right to insist that everyone abandon their own beliefs and adopt mine?


  16. So g at end of word is the same as ji? When texting all my Indian friends use g. I’m not Indian but I’m trying to learn because my boyfriend is Punjabi.


  17. After husband name if i m not using ‘ji’ it mean i m not giving him respect???
    I was talking with my frnd i didnot use ‘ji’ after my husband name and he is angry now …..i hv respect for him bt now i m unable to realize him .


  18. This is very informative. And i understood it well. Thank you very much Dr.Harshji. recently i met a Catholic priest here in Manila and told me about this ji when we talked about M. Ghandi… and he said Ghandiji… i asked about the adding of ji. Its like here in the Philippines… we have the “po” and “opo”. We add to the words not necessarily name to show respect. Like when we greet elder we can say “good morning po”. When we reply yes instead of yes we say “opo”… if we say no we say “hindi po” (hindi means no). Thanks po to you Dr. Harshji.


  19. Dear Dr. Luthar:
    I am 67 years old and my first name is Greg. while working in an orphanage in India 2 years ago I tried to have the children call me Mr. Greg, but they had trouble with the hard Gr sound. so on their own the started calling me what I thought was Baba G. now I realize they were calling me Baba Ji. I am returning to the orphanage to work soon. Is it Ok for them to continue to call me by that name?
    Thank you


    • Dear Greg-ji. Yes, I believe calling you Babaji must come natural to the children and it is easy for them to say. Babaji is a term well known to Indians and it is used generally for male elders (father, grandfather, great grandfather), sadhus, saints, and is a term of respect and affection. The context matters also. Sometimes elders will add Ji to the name of little ones affectionately. In certain Satsangs, it is common for everyone to add Ji to the other person’s name whether older and younger. Some common terms of endearment that elders use for those who are younger are beta (male) ~ means son, and beti (female), means daughter. Thank you Greggji (Babaji) for all that you are doing. All Love.


  20. Sir, its a very good article, but i have confused that some time we are using jee and ji but according to email etiquettes it should not used on mail body but i did not find any document on google and any where. please help me out for the same. according to my previous company corporate email etiquette, we should not use dear or respected sir word use for addressing some one on place of dear sumit, hi sumit. i have already debate on this matter in my office but i did not find any evidence to show him. pls reply on my mail :


  21. Thanks for your clarification in detail have a wonderful and blessings New year to u and your family. am indian movie fun .lots of love….


  22. From my experience in Rajasthan, my friends sometimes call me just “ji” , even when texting me – I am older than most of them (73) and wonder if this is the reason they use this traditional expression of respect? Actually, I believe we are ALL equal and all should have mutual respect whatever our age or social situation, and as such would prefer that I was not called “ji” but I don’t want to offend anyone by asking them to just call me by my first name -Paddy. What is the best thing to do here please ?


    • As I responded to this trail months ago — I TOTALLY also agree that EVERYONE should be spoken to with respect! Who cares when you were born! You are a being of light – period! AND ironically — the kids who are being born now have a MUCH higher frequency and awareness than older people do so…… doesn’t even make sense. That comes from a tribal program based in fear. So when I taught — I insisted that my students call me on a first name basis only! They LOVED being respected by their teacher and we had a great bond. The school told me it would “never work” — boy did we prove the school wrong!


  23. Would you say that Ji entered Indian languages with the advent of Europeans in the 14 th century? For example Vasco de Gama in Portuguese is pronounced as Vasco Ji Gama.


  24. Thank you for this clear explanation of how “ji” is used. I became aware of it reading some of the comments made on Twitter to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar so I was curious regarding the many terms unfamiliar to me such as ji, jai, guru, guru dev mean.


  25. You are right
    Need not be shown through unnecessary words. I have never heard word ji
    In the vedas
    Or bhagwat geeta


  26. Thanks to the author of this article, so I don’t have to go to Quora and ask, “Why does the word ji always appear after Mr. Modi’s name?”.


  27. Your article is very informative and wonderfully articulated. Thank you! My teachers studied under Swami Rama of the Himalayan Tradition. He added Ji to my teacher Jamie’s name when he spoke to her. She adds Ji to my name Donnie. I call her Jamieji and she refers to me as Donnieji. This isnt something she, I or swamiji did with everyone but is an honor to be seen and admired in that way. Maybe a good sadhana would be to always refer to people lovingly with a ji ❤

    Anywho. Love ya lots

    God bless


  28. I re-watched the 1982 movie ‘Ghandi’ last night and while I thought that ‘ji’ was a addon for respect, I appreciate the thoughtful definition you gave.


  29. Thank you for this detailed explanation. I spent some time at the SRF center in Encinitas where I grew up and studied Yogananda for awhile as I felt a strong connection to him. I am now in Denver and have a client of Indian descent with a name that ends in ji and have been meaning to ask him about it. Fearing any kind of insult to him I decided to look up the term. I had always thought, not knowing, that it was a term of spiritual acknowledgement for a persons awareness, depth, ability to help others and endearment to a master. which is not far from what you have described.
    My anglo father of Great British ancestry had a term of endearment by adding “Lou” at the end of someones name, mostly women; Mary Lou, Betty Lou, etc.
    Thanks again and for allowing replies.


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