Native English speakers seem to have an endless list of words used to converse with friends and family. To help you learn the ropes, we have compiled a list of the most commonly used slang words in the context of friendship.
Although many of these words are used exclusively to talk with good friends, some of them can be used in a casual nature with an unacquainted person. There are no rules here – you must judge the life situation for yourself and get a sense of when to use the following terms depending on your feel for the situation.
As a general ‘rule of thumb,’ however, these words and phrases must not be used in a professional setting or any situation that may be deemed official, in whatever context that may take.
Deriving from the 18th-century word ‘doodle’ (as in yanky doodle), over the years, the term has evolved into a nongender-specific noun to be used freely in most informal situations. For example, “Hey dude, how’s it going” or “Dude, have you seen my car keys.”
Despite its evolution from “brother,” “buddy” can be used with a stranger, a friend, a best friend, for both men and women, or when addressing a boy or a girl. Examples may include “Hey, buddy, ready to catch that game tonight?” or “What’s the plan, buddy?”
A classic favorite again used in most English-speaking countries, “pal” is a term used mostly between males of all age ranges. Interstingly, “pal” is also commonly used to address the family dog as a term of endearment.
Usually used with a close male friend (or female friend, sometimes). It’s often used in English-speaking Spanish communities in America. “Yo, homie, you coming to the party?” or “What’s up, homie?” are good examples of how the term might be used.
BFF (Best Friend Forever)
BFF is a more recent term that has become common over the last couple of decades and is used almost exclusively between female friends – especially with a close female friend, but not between a brother or sister.
“BFF” stands for an acronym that represents more than just letters, signifying a special connection between best friends. Examples include “Hey, BFF, let’s catch up soon!” or “Movie night, BFF?”.
A Spanish word with the literal translation meaning “friend,” which has become a colloquial term that signifies friendship in some way. Although “Amigo” can also be used with strangers in a friendly way, the term is mostly used between close male friends.
A random example might be something like, “Amigo, let’s hit the beach this weekend.”
A quick caveat: be careful not to use the term with people who you assume are Latino, just for the sake of it. That may be considered inappropriate or culturally insensitive, potentially leading to misunderstandings or offense.
This is actually quite an old and possibly quite old-fashioned term that has origins in America’s ‘cowboy’ west of old and was a popular term used by the successful Cowboy TV show “The Lone Ranger.”
The term derives from a trusted riding partner to analogize someone who is ready to take on life’s adventures side by side. Good examples of its use might be something like “Hey, partner, let’s tackle that project together” or “Good to see you, partner!”
Originating from British maritime lingo, “chum” was used to refer to a close friend on board a ship and is mostly used in the UK, although you may hear the term occasionally in American English. Similar to “pals,” “chums” is usually used in a casual nature with people who you are formally unacquainted with. “Excuse me, chum, do you know where the library is?” would be a fair example of its use.
Of Jamaican origin, this is a term that indicates a good friend, commonly (but not exclusively) to refer to friends from the same area. An example of its use would be, “Yeh, I know that person well, he is my bredren.”
Mostly used among British friends as a direct term for “friend,” “mate” is slowly creeping into American English slang words and can also be used as a greeting, such as “Hello mate, how are you doing today.” or “Excuse me, mate.” Commonly used to refer to small children, also.
Again, the golden rule is that slang terms are absolutely fine – but use them wisely and only with the right people, in the right context. Calling your mother “dude” would be fine in a playful context, for example, but not during an important family gathering, such as a funeral. By the same token, calling your boss a slang word would be a definite error unless you have a friendly yet professional relationship.