Mate, Buddy, Pal: What People Around The World Call Their Friends

What we call our friends reveals so much about our relationships. In that spirit, we compiled a list of words for friends in other languages.
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Mate, Buddy, Pal: What People Around The World Call Their Friends

English has a huge number of words for friends and acquaintances. Someone can be your mate, your buddy, your colleague, your partner, your comrade, your compatriot, your dude, your sister, your crony, your homeboy, and on and on and on. And this made us wonder:  are there as many words for friends in other languages?

We asked the employees at Babbel, and the resounding answer to that question is “yes.” It seems every country in the world is filled with terms that differ from region to region, as well as person to person. In the end, we compiled a pretty large (but still very incomplete) list of words for friends in other languages based on our own experiences.

But we don’t want to stop here. Do you use a word we didn’t mention here? Do you disagree with how we described the slang? We want to know. Just fill out this form to let us know!

Note: Be very careful with the words below, and it’s best not to call people by them randomly. Many people use words that might be offensive to strangers as terms of endearment for their friends, and the connotations can shift depending on exactly where you are.

Words For Friends In Other Languages

Arabic

  • habib (حبيب) — literally means “beloved.” It can also be altered slightly to habibi (masculine) or habiba (feminine), which means “my beloved.” Sounds intimate, but can be used for a range of close friends and relatives
  • sadiq (صديق) — the literal translation of “friend,” but is a bit too formal for casual settings

English

We won’t spend too much time on English because if you’re reading this, presumably you already have a passing familiarity with the language, but we wanted to highlight a few.

  • ar kida regional phrase used around Manchester and Liverpool in the United Kingdom
  • ark — a shortening of ar kid used in the Midlands of England
  • cobber, cob — used in Australia and New Zealand to refer to friends
  • mate — used a huge amount in both the United Kingdom and Australia
  • wanker — this word is an insult in both the U.K. and Australia, but it can also be used to refer to friends (especially when they’re acting like wankers)

French

The exact word for “friend” in French is ami, but that’s reserved for pretty formal circumstances. From France, we have a whole range of terms, including poto, sauce, pote and gros, most of which are regional terms used in Paris. There are also more to use:

  • frère literally means “brother,” but can also be used to refer to friends
  • khouya — from Arabic, this word literally means “my brother,” but it’s also used to refer to friends
  • ma gueule — literally means “my mouth,” but this can also be used to greet a friend
  • ma/mon chum — the word “chum” is taken from English, but it’s used extensively in French Canada to refer to friends
  • mec — another French-Canadian term, this one is closer to “dude”
  • pelo — used in Lyon, France, this word also basically means “dude”

German

The exact translation for “friend” in German is the very similar Freund. Even this connotation can change, as using the diminutive Freundchen (“little friend”) can be used as an insult. There are a number of other terms to use, fortunately.

  • Alter — literally means “older,” but can be used to refer to very close friends to mean “friend.” It’s also used by young Germans (particularly in Berlin) to mean something like “dude.” It can also be an insult, however, when you call someone you don’t know Alter
  • Atze — Berliner word for a friend, but a tad antiquated among younger generations
  • Digga — most commonly used in North Germany, this word is used like “bro” and is derived from Dicker, which means “close friend” in this context.
  • Keule — another Berliner word for a friend, but also a tad antiquated among younger generations
  • Kollege — direct translation of “colleague,” but might be used as a word for friends more general in Ruhr, Germany. Can be perceived as disrespectful to some
  • Kumpel — refers to a coal miner, but is colloquially used to mean “buddy” or “pal”
  • Spezi — one of a few variations of “friend,” coming from the Bavarian spezl

Hungarian

We got a few terms that are used in Hungary, but they come from a number of different source languages, reflecting the history of Hungary:

  • cimbora/cimbi — comes from Romanian, means “pal” (but less antiquated)
  • haver — comes from Hebrew, meaning “dude”
  • tesó — literally means “bro” in Hungarian
  • pajtás/pajti — comes from Turkish, means “buddy”

Italian

Italian has a huge number of regional terms. A note from one Italian who works here: the more offensive the term, the more affection is shown for the person. Here’s just a selection of the (less offensive) words we’re familiar with:

  • bello/a — literally means “beautiful,” but can also refer to a friend
  • caro/a — literally means “dear,” but can also refer to a friend
  • stella — literally means “star,” but also used among women to refer to friends
  • tesoro — literally means “treasure” or “darling,” but can also refer to a friend
  • vecchio — literally means “old,” this is a word for “friend” that is used among men. There are also regional variations in which it’s vecio or vicchio

Macedonian

Like many languages, Macedonian has various words depending on how close you are with the person you’re talking about.

  • Пријател — the actual word for “friend” that can refer to acquaintances
  • Другар — a very close friend, probably even a best friend
  • брат — literally “brother” in Macedonian, can also be used for friends. One common use is in the phrase Кај си бе брат, which means “Where are you bro” but is slang for “what’s up”

Polish

  • psiapsiółka — a term for female friends that can signal closeness, but can also come off as a bit infantile
  • ziomek — a common word for friends that directly translates to “compatriot.” There are a number of variations, including ziom, ziomal, ziomalek, ziomas and ziomuś. These can be used for friends, but can also be used just to refer to any “guy”
  • ziomalka — the female form of ziomek

Portuguese

In both Brazil and Portugal, there are lots of words for friends.

  • bróder — “brother,” taken from English. The Portuguese word for “brother” is irmão, which can also be used to refer to friends
  • camarada — literally “comrade,” used in Brazil for friends
  • cara — literally means “face,” but also used to refer to guys in Brazil
  • companheiro — literally “companion”
  • lek — used in Brazil, basically means “dude”
  • mano — used by people in both Portugal and Brazil to mean “dude”
  • meu — literally means “my” or “mine,” but used in Brazil to mean “buddy”
  • meu puto — a very slangy term for “my friend” in Portugal. It is similar to a very offensive Spanish term, but literally just means “boy” (and in Brazil puto means “pissed off”)
  • moleque — generally used to refer to someone who is younger, so it can be either pejorative or friendly depending on the context
  • parceiro — literally “partner”
  • véi — “dude” in Brazil, similar to “velho” but more common
  • velho — literally means “old,” but used to mean “dude” in Brazil

Russian

  • Кореш a slang term for a friend, buddy or acquaintance
  • Дружище — friend
  • чувак — dude
  • братан — bro
  • бро — a shortening of братан, also meaning bro

Spanish

Spanish is spoken in a number of countries, and each one has its own terms. The terms also differ within each country.

  • acho used in south Spain, it’s a shortening of muchacho, which just means “guy” or “man”
  • carnal — used in Mexico, can refer to either an actual brother or just someone as close as a brother
  • colega — used in Spain, literally translates to “colleague” but doesn’t require an actual professional relationship
  • cuate — used in Mexico, used to refer to chums
  • hermano — literally “brother,” but can refer to non-biological friends as well
  • llave — used in Colombia, this word literally means “key,” but also refers to very close friends
  • pana — used in Venezuela, means “mate” or “buddy”
  • parcero — used in Colombia, can be used like “dude” or “bro.” Can also be shortened to “parce” for a more gender-neutral version
  • tete — used in Spain, can refer to a literal brother, but also can just mean “dude”
  • tío — used in Spain, this literally means “uncle” but can just mean “man” or “dude”
  • tronco — used in Spain, a slang word for “man” or “dude”

South African Languages

South Africa is home to a number of languages, so there are likely a huge number of terms to refer to friends. Here are the ones we’re most familiar with.

  • bra/bru — both taken from English, they mean basically “bro”
  • ouens — from Afrikaans, means “guys”

Turkish

  • abi — literally means “brother,” but also can refer to a close friend
  • kanka — the Turkish word closest to “dude”
  • başkan — literally means “president,” but can also refer to friends

Urdu

In Pakistan, there are a few layers as to what you can call your friends.

  • dost — the literal translation of “friend”
  • jigar — literally “liver,” refers to a very close friends (as close as someone is to their liver, presumably)
  • yar — word for “friend”
  • yara — a way to call to your friend, meaning something like “hey friend”
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