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How to Say Buddy, Bro, Mate in Chinese

Feb.05, 2020

There are a lot of words in English related to "friend" such as "buddy, bro, mate, pal, homie" etc.


How can we say these in Chinese?


How to make Chinese people understand the intimacy between you and your friends when you introduce them?


Do you use "好朋友 hǎo péngyou (Good friend)"?


That might work, but by using some other words for "good friend", you will make Chinese people understand the friendship between you and your friend instantly.


Let's check them out!


1. 老铁 lǎotiě


"老铁 lǎotiě" is a very trendy Chinese word for "good friend, bro, mate" in recent years. "老" means "old", "铁" means "iron". How on earth does this relate to "good friend"? Well, there's an interesting story behind it:


Once upon a time, in the North East of China, the temperature in the winter is a terrifying -30 degrees. The freezing coldness makes the outside steel bars super icy. There are two kids, wrapped up with many layers of clothes, playing outside. One of the kids is really curious about the flavour of the snowy steel bar, so he tries to lick the bar. Guess what happened next?


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The iron freezes the tongue immediately and his tongue gets stuck on the bar. Who can help him out? Only his good friend who keeps exhaling the hot breath on the bar to warm his tongue so he can rescue him from the icy bar!


That's why a real friend, who will always stand by you and help you out is called "老铁". As for "老 lǎo, old", Chinese people like to use "老 lǎo" as a prefix of name to show the intimacy and respect to someone, such as "老王 Lǎo Wáng"- address a close friend surnamed with Wang, "老大 Lǎo dà"- an informal way to address boss.


"老铁 lǎotiě" is often used in comedy shows in the North East. Over time it has become a special word for "really good friends" all over China. In addition, Chinese people also use "铁tiě (iron)" itself to describe strong relations. For instance,


他们的关系非常铁。

Tāmen de guānxi fēicháng tiě。

Their relation is very close and strong.  


老铁,我就知道你懂我!

Lǎotiě,wǒ jiù zhīdào nǐ dǒng wǒ!

Bro, I knew you understood me!


2. 哥们儿 gēmenr / 姐们儿jiěmenr


"哥 gē" originally means "brother". In the north, for close-relation friend, bro, buddy, people use "哥们儿 gēmenr". Due to the influence of movies and TV shows, now this word has become well known by all Chinese people as a meaning for good friends. Sometimes you will also hear people put "铁tiě" in front – 铁哥们儿 (tiě gēmenr) to deepen the degree of good relation. "铁哥们儿" often, means best friend.


我以为她知道我喜欢她,可她一直把我当哥们儿!

Wǒ yǐwéi tā zhīdào wǒ xǐhuān tā,kě tā yìzhí bǎ wǒ dāng gēmenr!

I thought she knew I liked her, but she puts me in the friend-zone all the time!


我和Jack是从小就认识的铁哥们儿。

Wǒ hé Jack shì cóng xiǎo jiù rènshi de tiě gēmenr。

Jack and I have been good friends since we were young.


"哥们儿gēmenr" is a word for boys. Nowadays some girls also like to use this word, but they change "哥 gē (brother)" to "姐 jiě (sister)" to play the word a bit. "姐们儿 jiěmenr" is a feminine version of "哥们儿 gēmenr". This word is more used by northerners.


A more common word for a girl to call her good friend is:


3. 闺密 guīmì


"闺 guī" literally means "boudoir". "密 mì" literally means "close, intimate". "闺密 guīmì" literally means "close friend in the boudoir". Even though now girls don't stay in the boudoir all the time, the address of "闺密 guīmì" has spread until today to mean good friendships between girls.


However, does "闺密guīmì" only refer to girls now? Modern people have made more interesting forms for it.


Girls now put "男 nán (male)" at the beginning - "男闺密 nán guīmì" for their good male friends.


Sometimes girls also use this word for their good male gay friends. They call them "gay密 gaymì" to play with similar pronunciation. "guīmì" and "gaymì", are about similar, right?


Here're some examples:


这件事只有我的几个闺密知道。

Zhè jiàn shì zhǐ yǒu wǒ de jǐ ge guīmì zhīdào。

Only a couple of my good girlfriends know this.


有时候男闺密比老公更了解你。

Yǒushíhòu nánguīmì bǐ lǎogōng gèng liǎojiě nǐ。

Sometimes good male friends understand more of you than your husband.


These are some Chinese versions for "buddy, bro, mate" etc. You got it? Remember, "好朋友" is a good word, but "老铁", "哥们儿" and "闺蜜" are cooler to use!


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