I'm looking for a single word that describes the younger man in this relationship:

A cop in his thirties befriends a seventeen-year-old kid he picked up on the street. He sees a younger version of himself in the boy, and the boy doesn't have a father figure in his life (he's being raised by a single mother), so the cop takes him under his wing. They develop a very tight friendship and have a relationship somewhere between father-son and siblings, though probably closer to the older-younger brother relationship.

I need something stronger than "friends," but since they're not actually brothers, I can't use that either. Similar to "protege," but with a less official connotation (and he's not training the younger one to become a cop).

3 Answers 3


I think you can describe the relationship as brotherly or fraternal suggesting that they are like brothers:

  • of, resembling, or suitable to a brother, esp in showing loyalty and affection; fraternal. (Collins)

Given the context described and the fraternal relationship, the younger man could be referred to as the policeman's little brother:

  • A close male friend; (AHD)
  • Thanks, but I'm looking for a noun to describe him.
    – Nicole
    May 13, 2015 at 11:57
  • @Nicole - I've updated my answer:
    – user66974
    May 13, 2015 at 12:42
  • Thanks @Josh61. I was hoping to find something other than brother - I'm writing a query letter and need a very succinct word to describe their relationship. Since he's not actually the cop's younger brother, I think using "brother" would be confusing, but I'm going to play with the word, see if I can add another word to it to better describe them. Thanks again!
    – Nicole
    May 13, 2015 at 12:45
  • 1
    @Nicole . will think about it and other answers may be posted. I added little to add an affectionate/protective connotation to the term brother.
    – user66974
    May 13, 2015 at 12:54

The word sounds a bit silly to my ear, but the younger person can be called a mentee, the counterpart to a mentor.

a person who is advised, trained, or counselled by a mentor. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Over the course of five years this evolved to a more casual adolescent to adult-model relationship in which the preservice teacher helped their mentee set goals, shared college experiences, and chaperoned college campus tours.

-Radcliffe, Richard and Bos, Beth, "Mentoring approaches to create a college-going culture for at-risk secondary level students." American Secondary Education. 2011, Vol. 39 Issue 3, p86-107.

In our context the older person might be called a youth mentor, to emphasize this particular sense, rather than the sense that entails professional training. But I've never heard an analogue for mentee that eliminates the corresponding ambiguity. (One can find about 1000 hits for youth mentee on Google, but this sounds awfully stilted to me, and I'd anyway avoid the term because it's potentially confusing enough to demand more explanation.)

The organization Big Brothers Big Sisters (the fraternal metaphor is explicit here), which arranges this sort of mentorship between adult volunteers and children, uses the peculiar term Littles, but I've never heard this usage elsewhere, and again without more context it would surely cause confusion.

International research has shown that positive relationships between Littles and their Bigs have a direct and measurable impact on children's lives and of the community as a whole.


  • 2
    I agree with you about the silliness of "mentee".
    – herisson
    May 13, 2015 at 5:53
  • 2
    @sumelic The oddness of the term might be a consequence of its peculiar and bastardized etymology: Mentor is taken from the name of Μέντωρ, a Greek mythological figure, but the back-formation mentee apparently treats -tor as the Latin suffix for "doer" (aviator, elevator) and replaces it with the dual suffix -tee (appointee, inductee). On the other hand, a few other purely Latin words with that suffix sound pretty awful to me too (dedicatee, persecutee).
    – Travis
    May 13, 2015 at 6:04

Platonic relationship is a relationship where there is a mentor type feeling...for someone who you see as a life guide, a life coach, a life counsellor, a life teacher, or a life sir...and you always have a continuous respect for. You have not necessarily felt it important to define the relationship or put a tag on it of calling him a brother or father, as there is no blood relationship, but it's just same underlying feeling of guidance a brother or father would give. It should be both ways.

  • 1
    What is a "life sir"? That isn't a term I have ever come across in North American English.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 8, 2021 at 5:51

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