In Chinese, there is a four-character phrase, 竹马故友 which could be translated word for word into:

Bamboo Horse Old Friend: Friends who played together riding toy horses made of bamboo.

I know there is a similar term in Japanese and Korean. Japanese is 竹馬の友 which means a friend of bamboo horse. I heard from a Japanese expert that it is not very common, but not difficult to understand for Japanese.

I wonder how a native speaker of English describes a best friend since childhood. For example, when you introduce him or her, you could say:

(S)he is my best friend since childhood. We are [best friend since childhood] or We used to [do something] together.

Is there any suitable term or idiom?

  • 9
    We usually say childhood best friend.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 14:32
  • 3
    @Dan Bron: Except that can often refer to someone you haven't interacted with at all in adult life. To avoid ambiguity, [She has been my] best friend since childhood (but personally I'd normally say ...best friend [ever] since we were children). Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 14:41
  • Just a note: "竹马故友" isn't a Chinese phrase, although it appears in Korean and Japanese. There is however a well-known Chinese phrase "青梅竹马", but it refers to the close relationship a man and a woman (usually they are lovers) have with each other since childhood, instead of childhood good friends.
    – Vim
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 14:52
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers True, I also like "... since childhood".
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 14:54
  • 4
    "Brother from another mother"
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 18:20

5 Answers 5


"Lifelong friends" is about as far back as you can go because most people would understand that tiny babies don't really have "friends" so to say "lifelong", it's generally understood that as long as someone were capable of having/being a friend, they've been friends.

  • 2
    I do have a friend that I’ve been “friends” with longer than I can remember, since our mothers would stick us in a shared playpen as infants. He hit me with a rattle once, I'm told, and my mother assured his that I probably deserved it. :P
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 21:15
  • 2
    @KRyan Time for a little payback ;)
    – Dumbledore
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 13:54

I am not a native speaker, but I've come across bosom friends to signify a thick friendship between people. Also bosom buddy.

One's close or closest friend; a friend one holds dear to one's heart

[The Free Dictionary]


We have been bosom friends since we were toddlers.

  • 1
    "Bosom buddy: informal: A very close or intimate friend: [e.g.] 'it’s clear that Jeff and Tom are bosom buddies from way back'" from oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/… Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 14:58
  • 1
    Bosom buddy is the idiomatic form of the phrase, thanks to the alliteration. Also somewhat archaic.
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 21:14
  • @BiscuitBoy. Your answer is good. But, the expressions "bosom friends" and "bosom buddy" refer to the closeness of relationship between two or more persons as friends; the expressions do not refer to the time from when such relationship subsisted. I think the crux of the instant question is not the closeness of the relationship, but the duration of the time from when such relationship subsisted. Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 4:29

A common phrase for someone you were friends with in childhood is childhood best friend

However, that can often refer to someone you haven't seen since you left school. If it's someone you're still friends with, an unambiguous phrase that is commonly used is we've been best friends since childhood.

Note the tense used in the second example. "Best friend since childhood" doesn't work as a noun-phrase, the noun-phrase is "best friend". Hence you can say "we've been best friends since childhood", meaning "we were best friends when we were children and we still are". You can't say "We are best friends since childhood", or "She is my best friend since childhood".

Shamelessly cobbled together from comments, because it's exactly what I was thinking and after nearly 24 hours no-one else has made it into an answer

  • Although it has to be said that the OP himself uses that exact phrase in the question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 13:03
  • @Mari-LouA - Thanks for the comment. I've now edited to clarify where the OP was going wrong in his usage of the phrase.
    – AndyT
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 13:11
  • Well spotted, I hadn't noticed the present tense used. Sorry, but I can't upvote twice :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 13:14
  • @AndyT Amazing. That part I haven't noticed at all.
    – user140086
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 13:30

To me, the best answer could be:

... are/ were (depending on the situation) friends forever.

  • @Mari-LouA. Thank you for pointing out the silly mistake that I had inadvertently commited. Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 4:35
  • You're welcome, typos happen to the best of us.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 4:36

Yes, that 竹馬故友is not Chinese at all, for friends since childhood, Chinese use 青梅竹马as idiom for a boy and a girl. with some hint of future marriage. for boys. there's no idiom, rather aslang, 光屁股一起长大的哥们,literally means a buddy from age of bare bottoms


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