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It's often confusing for me to talk about my friends, especially my female friends. This is because in Dutch there are words for both male ("vriend") and female ("vriendin") friends. In English however, there's as far as I know only the word friend, which can mean both a male or a female friend.

For this reason I was wondering if there is a word to say a person is both female and a friend.

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    The obvious word is "girlfriend," although that often connotes some kind of dating relationship. (I suppose you could say "platonic girlfriend," but that's a mouthful). Then again, if you simply said, "She is my friend," that would eliminate the need for a special word, wouldn't it?
    – J.R.
    Jun 20, 2012 at 9:00
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    Friend Without Benefits? Jun 20, 2012 at 16:52
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    "female friend"... Jun 20, 2012 at 20:46
  • Out of curiosity - does vriendin in Dutch have the same usage as Freundin in German, where the word can (and in German usually does) mean girlfriend in the romantic sense?
    – David Hall
    Jun 20, 2012 at 22:17
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    There is also no single English word that specifically means a person is both green-eyed and a friend, or left-handed and a friend, or taller than six feet and a friend. Jun 20, 2012 at 22:40

6 Answers 6

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Personally I typically use "guy friends" and "lady friends" to avoid the relationship connotation.

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    +1, I like it! And it doesn't sound nearly as stiff as 'female/male friend'
    – Nieszka
    Jun 20, 2012 at 15:03
  • I like it as well :) Jun 20, 2012 at 15:39
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    The only problem with this is that in the past, "lady friend" was used as a euphemism for a mistress. It is still taken this way sometimes
    – SSumner
    Jun 20, 2012 at 16:16
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    @SSumner: Yea, good point. I guess for me it also largely depends on the company I'm talking to. Is it close friends? Family members? Board of executives? The fact that the OP wants to explicitly distinguish that they're female probably means the people in the conversation are closer friends/family. In a business situation, "friends" would probably suffice, whereas in a personal/family situation, they probably know that you're not referring to mistresses, while at the same time, if you were to say girl friends, they might wonder if you've started a new relationship. Jun 20, 2012 at 17:25
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    I would definitely take "lady friend" to either mean she was a lover, or at least jokingly imply that she was a lover.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 30, 2013 at 1:29
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That is quite true: there is no such word. In English we have to use several words to express the precise nature of the kind of relationship you describe. The words girlfriend and boyfriend usually indicate that the people concerned are rather more than friends, although I believe ladies will sometimes refer to their female friends as girlfriends with no such implication.

There’s a wider question here, which goes beyond language. It is about the extent to which men and women can be friends with each other in the absence of any kind of romantic attachment.

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    A French colleague once said that the English were lucky - that a husband could say they were out with a friend without arousing any suspicions
    – mgb
    Jun 20, 2012 at 21:27
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    There's also another wider question here: If there is no kind of romantic attachment, then why should it matter what gender the friend is? What's wrong with "friend"?
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 21, 2012 at 18:59
  • @T.E.D. It's just the way we talk about friends in Belgium, we nearly always mention whether it's a male or female friend. I wouldn't know how where that comes from though, as in a lot of other languages the distinction is nearly never made. Jun 21, 2012 at 19:11
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    @T.E.D.: Let's say you're in company of people (all of them of same gender as you) deciding where to go (to hang out or something) and you want to ask if it is okay to invite new person. People of different gender are more likely to have different preferences, so in such situation it makes sense to have some way of telling person's gender in a few words without making anyone think you're inviting your romantic interest.
    – SigTerm
    Jun 21, 2012 at 19:47
  • @Simon, I am not sure about “a lot of other languages”, but in many European languages (Romantic, Germanic, or Slavic at least) that distinction is indeed often made.
    – theUg
    Jul 18, 2012 at 20:06
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I have heard the phrase "gal pal" used in this way.

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    That seems like just the right mix of informality and preciseness. +1
    – scribu
    Jun 20, 2012 at 18:14
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You are right, there is no word to distinguish between a male and female friend, and 'friend' is not the only word that runs into this problem. You, or your conversation partner, can infer the gender of the person you're talking about from subsequent or previous use of words such as 'she'/'her'/'hers'.

You can say 'female friend' though in my opinion that places a lot of, often unnecessary emphasis on the gender.

You can also say 'girlfriend' though this has the disadvantage of being slightly colloquial and could lead to ambiguity regarding your relationship with that person.

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  • Why do you think "female friend" places "too much" emphasis on the gender? I agree that it does place a lot of emphasis on the gender. But clearly the expressed intent is to point out the gender, or OP could just use "friend". Jun 20, 2012 at 16:38
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    I guess this goes back to what Barrie England said: "...the extent to which men and women can be friends with each other in the absence of any kind of romantic attachment." I like to fervently believe that they can and so when I talk of my friends I don't distinguish unless their gender is key to the matter. Furthermore, like I said, it does become evident sooner or later through the use of 'she, hers' etc. so the addition of 'female' before friend sounds more stiff than it needs to be.
    – Nieszka
    Jun 21, 2012 at 7:34
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I realize it doesn't exactly conform to grammar rules, but my friends and I have always informally refered to them as "she-friends."

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English language is heavily based on the use of pronouns, which other languages can skip because the subject/object of a verb or adjective can be easily inferred from how the words around it are declined; English has lots of invariant words, which make for a much easier grammar, but at the cost of having to put pronouns everywhere in order to properly express what the speaker is actually referring to.

What you are describing happens in Italian too (amico/amica/amici/amiche), and also for many other words which have male/female/singular/plural forms. In English, you need a pronoun to achieve the same effect: "he" or "she" (or, of course, the person's name) is the only way to distinguish a male friend from a female one.

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  • I reckon it be the main culprit. English does not have grammatical category of gender any more, hence no gender declension, and, consequently, need to clarify everything (sometimes (often?) awkwardly).
    – theUg
    Jul 18, 2012 at 20:12
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    Or, the benefit of not having to clarify gender when it's irrelevant. Overall, I view this as a win for English. Jan 22, 2013 at 23:28

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