I'm looking for a proper English word to say "conversational partner".

Is "interlocutor" a word an average person would understand?

Are there any other words or shorter expressions which could describe a person you are having a conversation with, but who is not your friend and is basically unknown to you?

  • 4
    No, the average person wouldn't understand that word. Educated people would, though.
    – Robusto
    Jun 10 '11 at 15:00
  • 1
    @Robusto Sorry, I consider myself an educated person, but never heard that word before looked up translation of requested by OP word in my native language :) "The guy I'm talking with", "Mr Smith here"... There're lots of ways to point to your "conversational partner" without using uncommon words.
    – Philoto
    Jun 10 '11 at 15:09
  • I am looking for a short, simple expression. There seem to be simple words for this in every other language I know, but not in English :(
    – unbeli
    Jun 10 '11 at 15:14
  • Right. Different languages emphasize different things. English, for its part, is very concerned with time and sequencing, the order in which things happen. It's also focused on identifying the relationship between individuals. A neutral word for "the person I'm talking to" isn't strongly needed because we have many words to more clearly specify the person in question, e.g., "friend," "confidante," "colleague," "neighbor," that clarify the role of the speaker.
    – The Raven
    Jun 10 '11 at 17:41
  • "Interlocutor" makes an appearance in this newspaper article, attesting to its currency: brownsvilleherald.com/articles/cartels-127626-drug-female.html
    – The Raven
    Jun 12 '11 at 8:02

With regard to "interlocutor," it's the generic English term for "the person with whom I am speaking." Anything else is likely to be a nonce coinage, like, "conversant," or "discussant."


try dialoguer

dia·loguer n. Usage Note: In recent years the verb sense of dialogue meaning "to engage in an informal exchange of views" has been revived, particularly with reference to communication between parties in institutional or political contexts.


Here's a word that would be understood easily as conversational partner :


As in, "The other discourser was Jane."

  • +1 I like this better than "dialoguer" :) Jun 14 '11 at 18:18

Although I can’t find it listed anywhere as such, as I interpret Elaine Chaika’s multiple use of “co-conversationalist” in Linguistics, Pragmatics and Psychotherapy: A Guide for Therapists, it seems that she’s using it as a synonym of "interlocutor." (from ‘Google Books’)

Cf: the use of “[her] co-conversationalist and interlocutor” in The Legacy of Dell Hymes: Ethnopoetics, Narrative Inequality, and Voice, edited by Paul V. Kroskrity, Anthony K. Webster (also via ‘Google Books’), which, if not a simple redundant repetition for emphasis, could indicate that the two terms have different meanings.


I often, in a casual conversational encounter, use the word "associate" in the noun sense... or partner...

it doesn't seem to denote friendship to most people which often is accepted as uncomfortable to many when from a stranger.

I very frequently refer to a stranger in an enjoyable conversation as "a fun conversational partner", and it had never been said to be too intimate a word for strangers.

  • 1
    Carries no meaning of current conversation, though.
    – itsbruce
    Nov 19 '14 at 15:43

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