Some people on a board I frequent got into a Monster discussion and were wondering what exactly the difference is between a “doctor” and a “sensei.” The main character in the show “Monster” is a Japanese doctor who lives in Germany, and is alternately called Doctor or Sensei by different people.
A “doctor” is a title given to someone who studied the highest level of a particular science in a university (i.e. a doctorate). The most common usage is of course a doctor of medicine but there are doctors in chemistry, doctors in physics, literature, etc. I referred to my old professor in college as a doctor and he was “just” a literary teacher. He had a PhD in literature.
Just so you know, the real meaning of “doctor” is “teacher” and it was used to refer to the Church Fathers who taught religion to the masses. Doctor comes from Latin “docere” which means “to teach.”
A “sensei” is basically the same thing — a very learned person in a particular science or skill. The common usage of the two terms is different in the two languages, but basically the two are words cut from the same cloth.
The word sensei comes from the word “sen” (predecessor) and “sei” (life) basically meaning someone who has experience and knowledge before you did in life. i.e. someone who is ahead of you in knowledge and experience, therefore qualified to teach you.
In the context of the show, this doesn’t really mean much. The main distinction is that one is a Western term and the other is an Eastern term. There are differences in usage in different languages but basically the two mean the same thing.