Senpai or sometimes written as sempai is a Japanese honorific term used for when speaking to someone of a higher, elevated social status in school, dojo, sport clubs, and even at work.
The term senpai is usually reversed for mentors, and don’t apply to authority figures like bosses or teachers.
It became a meme thanks to the Japanese anime and manga culture and is mostly used as a catchphrase “notice me senpai”, to express a quest to resolve a unrectified affection and admiration.
Origin of the term
The term originates from the Japanese language, which probably dates to the creating of the first dictionaries.
The word senpai started to spread after the Japanese anime and manga culture was discovered by the western audience and started appearing on message board website like Tumblr.
The phrase “notice me senpai” started to raise in popularity after its first appearance in 2012.
Spread of the term
The use of the term is quite widespread due to the popularity of the “weeb” culture on the internet, which was later adapted by the “normative” crowd.
It is a daily driver on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and image sharing sites like 9gag and Instagram.
In 2014 PewDiePie created a compilation video of all the times he said “senpai will notice me”, thus further popularising the term, given his large subscriber count.
- Wikipedia – Senpai and kōhai