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A mamasan refers to a female in a position of authority. It is usually the head of a brothel or adult massage parlor. The term originated from a combination of English and Japanese terms. The English term for mama is combined with the Japanese suffix -san. The suffix in Japanese is used to signify honor and command respect. When coined by US soldiers during the second World War, the term mamasan signifies a figure of authority although, ironically, not one of honor. Mamasan is also sometimes spelled as mama-san.
In many parts of Asia, the term mamasan is commonly used as a sex-related term. It can also refer to a housemaid or cleaning lady in other parts of Asia. Generally, the term describes a woman in a position of management or authority within the sex industry. This might include the manager of a brothel or massage parlor. In some cases, mamasan is used as the female equivalent of a pimp. It is usually only used in this way when there is an establishment involved as opposed to a street-run business.