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I often hear 'bro' being used in a gender-neutral manner among younger speakers (mainly teenagers), and I'm wondering about the specifics of this trend. (Or at least it seems like a trend to me.)

Here are a few contexts, though it's possible that there are more:

  1. When talking to other girls to show incredulity:

Oh my god...Bro, he said that? Out loud? To you? Bro, I can't even...

Here, the bro is pronounced as it normally is, which is along the lines of /bɹoʊ/. It's being used by one girl to address the other girl.

  1. When relaying prior information:

And I told her, 'bro, you need to calm down.' And then she said...

Here, it's pronounced a little more sharply, and with a slightly different vowel: /braʊ/. In the original exchange that's being recounted, I doubt that the girl who was told to calm down was addressed as bro, but it's been added in during the retelling for whatever reason. This bro seems to be used in a similar manner to the AAVE girl.

  1. To show any sort of intense emotion:

Bro, we won! We won!

I distinguish this from example 1 because this one is pronounced differently, with the /br/ sound split up. (Like some people do when turning crazy into cuh-ray-zee) It's a bit like /bʌɹaʊ/, with the emphasis on what is now the second syllable.


What I note is that though it's used to refer to girls, it's only used this way by girls. In other words, bro's original 'guy → guy' and later 'girl → guy' scope now seems to have widened to include 'girl → girl' as well. (The boundary between 'guy → girl' seems to remain untouched.)

Another thing is that third-person 'bro' (Bro was like 'I'm so cool'...) also seems to have remained gendered and only used when referring to males.

This article is the most academic examination I could find, but it only touches on bro and instead focuses more on dude and guy. There are a couple of threads I've found that also center around this phenomenon, but there isn't much specific information.

  • Is 'bro' gender-neutral? (In my experience it is, so the rest of my questions are sort of leading off of that)
  • Since when has it been gender-neutral?
  • Among what age demographics is it gender-neutral?
  • Is it likely that it might become as ubiquitous as 'guy' and 'dude'?
  • Has there been any focused research done on this?
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  • As with everything else, Language Log has a post on this.
    – alphabet
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 1:38
  • Too many questions for a single post. Part of them are POB issues.
    – Gio
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 7:56
  • @Gio - I posted them together because I feel that they're all very related and share the same context. Also, what's a 'POB issue'? Commented May 2, 2023 at 14:17
  • Yes, they are related but it is not in the site style to ask for more than a couple of related questions on the same issue. Anyway let’s see users reaction.
    – Gio
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 15:50
  • POB refers to opinion based questions. If bro is going to be like dude or guys in usage is mostly a matter of personal opinion.
    – Gio
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 15:52

1 Answer 1

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"All the Young Dudes: Generic Gender Terms Among Young Women" answers some of your questions regarding the first context you mention:

As the term ‘dude’ becomes arguably uncontroversial in its generic usage, it appears more inherently masculine terms such as ‘bro’ and its variant ‘brah’ can now be observed being commonly adopted by certain groups of young women to refer to each other. [...] It appears to follow the same pattern and trends of other forms of address like ‘guy’ and ‘dude’ in being adopted as a kind of camaraderie marker for a group. It remains to be seen whether this usage of ‘bro’ among women will become as widespread as that of ‘dude’ and how this might alter the current meaning and usage of the word.

That article was from 2015, so the trend dates back at least 8 years. Like most innovations in slang, this usage is presumably more common in younger speakers.

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  • That's useful, though, as you note, it doesn't answer everything. Thanks anyway. Commented May 2, 2023 at 14:15
  • @Heartspring Not only are hailnames like these surprisingly tricky, they are also more perilous than kids using them usually notice until after it’s too late.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 22:47
  • @tchrist What peril, man?
    – alphabet
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 22:51

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