I thought about 'male friend' or 'female friend.'

I've heard people saying 'girl friend' (usually girls say this).

What's the most common way of saying this?

  • I am pretty sure I've heard guy friend (as opposed to boyfriend) used for a male non-romantic friend. Of course, with guys slowly becoming a unisex term, this may not work for much longer. For females, I don't have any analogous suggestion. – Peter Shor May 8 '11 at 12:25

Female friend and male friend are fine, but usually you don't say the gender of the friend explicitly. If you say my friend then later refer to that friend as she, it simply becomes obvious the friend is female; similarly, if you say a friend of mine, Tom, it's apparent that the friend is male because Tom is a male name. If you're not talking about a specific friend, then e.g. I have a lot of female friends is the best option.

The problem with girlfriend is that it almost always implies a romantic relationship: if a female says it casually, you're relatively safe assuming she means just a female friend and not a lover, but for (heterosexual) males it's exclusively for romantic involvement. With boyfriend a romantic relationship is always implied, regardless of the sex of the speaker.

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    +1: And OP should pay special attention to the last sentence. – Robusto May 8 '11 at 12:04
  • I wonder if lesbians use 'girlfriend' to simply refer to a female friend less than heterosexual women because of the implied romantic relationship. – Sam May 8 '11 at 13:30
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    In informal situations, guy friend can also be used to refer to a male friend without any romantic implication. – JSBձոգչ May 8 '11 at 13:46
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    Note: In the UK girlfriend almost always implies a romantic relationship - the use for "female non-romantic friend" is far less common than in North America. – psmears May 8 '11 at 14:39
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    @Sam Far as I know, yes. And hearing someone else use "girlfriend" without the romantic context can be jarring to a lesbian ear. – Adam Lear May 9 '11 at 4:02

The Wikipedia page makes a good discussion. Read it.

For some people there is a distinction between girlfriend/ boyfriend and girl friend/ boy friend (separate words), in the sense that the latter does not assume a romantic relationship. Also, the words ladyfriend, lady friend, guyfriend, friend boy or friend girl may be used with the same meaning (non-romantic).
I have personally used the expression lady friend (but apparently incorrectly according to Wikipedia). Male friend or female friend sounds disagreeable to me.

  • In Australia at least, if someone says lady friend/ladyfriend/lady-friend a romantic relationship will be assumed. – JoAnne Nov 26 '14 at 23:15

In many situations, the gender of the friend will become apparent when you talk more about them.

My friend recommended this book. She said it was a really good read.


My friend recommended this book. He said it was a really good read.

As I have come across it, boy-friend always refers to a very close partnership, hetero- or homosexual, girl-friend can be a partner for a man, a partner for a woman, or simply a female friend of a woman. But if a man refers to his girl-friend, it's normally not "just a friend".

Female and male friend sounds a bit too formal to my ears, but maybe that's just me.

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