I am seeking a feminine equivalent to mate. Lets say I am walking in a hallway and bump into a male college; I would say something along the lines of

Sorry, mate/lad/pal.

However when I bump into a female, I just say "Sorry" which I feel is a bit lacking.

Is there a feminine equivalent to mate?

  • 1
    I think this varies according to the country, your gender and age, and their age.
    – user63230
    Jan 24, 2015 at 4:48

6 Answers 6


Mate/pal work just fine for ladies as long as they actually are your friend: best of mates, we're just mates, pals together and so on, but, mate/pal doesn't work as well as it does with men when the woman you are apologising to is unknown to you.

In my opinion, the safest Sorry (for a man) to say to a woman is just plain Sorry.

The following terms are UK based.

If you want to take a little risk then you could try Sorry Miss for a youngish lady or Sorry Madam for an older one but that seems quite stuffy and Madam might not always be well received.

I don't think Sorry Missus is very popular unless said by children.

All the phrases below are also used by women when talking to women or men (friend or stranger).

Sorry love is generally acceptable in most of the UK.

Sorry dear should perhaps be reserved for ladies older than yourself these days, but then if they don't think they are old ...

Sorry darling might well get you some grief unless the lady is your wife, girlfriend or a friend although it was (and probably still is) commonly used in the South.

Sorry pet seems reasonably acceptable in Northern England along with Sorry lass if the lady is younger than you.

Sorry hen in Scotland seems to cause offence as often as it doesn't.

This probably applies equally to Excuse Me: when you want to interrupt someone to ask them a question Excuse me mate works fine when you are asking a man, just plain Excuse me when you are asking a woman.

  • Unfortunate.... Jan 24, 2015 at 18:31
  • @ViruZX It's just the way it is. Sorry by itself, as long as you mean it, is enough. It would be interesting to hear what some of the lady members of this site thought.
    – Frank
    Jan 24, 2015 at 18:43
  • I wouldn't generally recommend a man saying "sorry love", "dear", "darling", or similar terms to a woman: such language is often considered sexist or patronising. It does vary somewhat between regions, but if you have to ask if "love" is ok then you're not sufficiently familiar with dialectal usage to use it. In contrast, I don't see a problem with calling a woman "mate" in a situation where you would call a man "mate".
    – Stuart F
    May 8, 2021 at 21:45

The term "mate" is essentially gender neutral in Australia. This applies almost in all cases except perhaps if you're a male and bump into a woman who is 'generationally' older than you. In that case, just 'Sorry' or 'Excuse me' is fine.


Most of the equivalent female specific terms either have a history of being used condescendingly ('darling', 'babe', 'pet', 'love') or imply something about a person's age ('miss', "ma'am") so I would avoid using any of them. "Sorry" or "Excuse me" are both the best options, but I really don't see anything wrong with using "mate" in a gender neutral way


Bud(buddy)/pal is acceptable for a woman known or unknown unless she says'im not your buddy/pal". "Sorry bud"/ "Sorry Pal" is somewhat appropriate.

  • 1
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    – Community Bot
    Nov 13 at 21:24

I would put in: "(I am so)sorry" for politeness, or simply "I apologise" which is also fine, by my own standards.

  • 1
    Use citations in answers, if you please.
    – lbf
    Mar 27, 2018 at 18:25

I'm a woman and if someone I don't know uses 'love' or 'pet' I think I would want to punch them in the face. 'Mate' it's quite common, can't see anything wrong about that.'Dear' doesn't sound bad but it is more common to hear it from an older lady.

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