I'm looking for a noun, that people would use naturally while refering to a person who they chat with – in the context of online chat. Imagine that you are looking for someone you could chat with. How would you call such a person?

The first word that came to my mind was chatmate, but this word doesn't seem to be commonly used. What do you think about this word? Can you suggest any alternatives that seem natural to you?

I've also found the word interlocutor, which is way too formal though. There were similar questions ([1], [2]) where other words like conversationalist, converser, conversant, discussant or dialoguer were mentioned. Unfortunately these words are either getting far from the original meaning or they are words that usually won't come up to someone's mind.

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    Even after your edit, it's still not clear to me whether you mean any or all of chatting in person, on voicephone, via text messages, or "Internet chat" on things like Facebook. But have you considered chat buddy, which gets 2-3 times more Google hits than chatmate or chat mate? Dec 31 '12 at 22:35
  • I mean chatting online. Yes, like Facebook. "chat buddy" is good alternative, I just wonder whether amount of Google hits is good measure.
    – LihO
    Dec 31 '12 at 22:58
  • I'd say it also depends on the nature of the chat. The obvious word friend comes to mind, but, if the two people discuss detailed matters about their personal lives, then the word confidant might work well, too.
    – J.R.
    Dec 31 '12 at 22:59
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    @LihO This site is for people who can, and will, read entire sentences, rather than skimming just a couple keywords and then rushing to answer without even caring what the question is really about.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 1 '13 at 13:54
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    LihO: If you're referring to the dialogue between FF and I, I wouldn't call that "arguing." I'd instead characterize it as two people thinking out loud, learning more about the depth of your question through focussed discussion. Heck, I even got @FumbleFingers to talk about his mother's penpals! Sometimes these lengthy exchanges are productive, as opposed to mere bickering.
    – J.R.
    Jan 2 '13 at 1:02

Most people I know say chat buddy, internet friend, or online friend like @FumbleFingers and @Kristina Lopez said. You might say penpal. Although it generally means someone you write letters to (and perhaps never meet), I think it is appropriate for a friend you only know online and to whom you write. The following sentences sound natural:

  1. I was talking to an online friend the other day.
  2. I have a Skype meeting with a chat buddy later.
  3. I'm chatting with a buddy.
  4. She was my internet friend for years before we ever met in person.
  5. I was chatting with my penpal all day yesterday.

Note: in example 3, if you use the word chat (even as a verb) in a sentence, you don't have to say chat buddy, just buddy will work. Buddy already has an "online" connotation, especially used in that context.

The more I think about it, the more I like penpal.

I hope that helps!

  • Seems that most people assume that after chatting with someone it will become their friend/buddy. Then there are adjectives that can emphasize the fact that it is not conversation in person like online/internet. The word mate seems to indicate more close relation or emphasize the fact of equal position, similarly to words fellow, companion, partner etc. I think it depends on context. If people will look for more than just friendship (romance, marriage), I think they'll prefer the word mate over buddy.
    – LihO
    Jan 1 '13 at 0:16
  • Hm. Mate might work, but it's so rare in American English to use it conversationally, so I think it depends on who you're talking to. In American English, mate is usually part of a compound word, like classmate, but used by itself as a noun, it typically means the person you will have children with and it sounds odd and stilted. If I hear an Australian say mate, I know he means friend. So again, I think it depends on the person to whom you're talking. Let's see if some Australians will help us out on that one. Jan 1 '13 at 0:16
  • @LihO: There are several dimensions you could look at. One is, is the relationship strictly online, face-to-face, or both? Another would be, how often do you stay in touch – almost daily, or only a few times a year? Another is the nature of the relationship: deep vs. casual, romantic vs. platonic. All of these factors may affect which word might be best suited to describe the relationship.
    – J.R.
    Jan 1 '13 at 0:17
  • @J.R.: I intentionally didn't want to describe specific situation because I'm curious what words will people come with if the only fact they know is that they want to find someone who they will chat with no matter how often they want to chat with that person, no matter whether they're looking for friendship, romance, marriage or just someone to chat with (maybe they just want to practice some foreign language)... But I can say that answers and comments that I've encountered here are helpful :)
    – LihO
    Jan 1 '13 at 0:29
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    Getting back to the answer at hand, one of the things I liked about penpal is that it can be used across most of those possibilities: whether the correspondence is frequent or occasional, romantic or platonic, intimate or casual, the word penpal can be applied so long as a significant portion of the communication occurs in some kind of correspondence.
    – J.R.
    Jan 1 '13 at 0:32

FumbleFingers' chat buddy is a good choice but you might also consider online friend.

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    Ha! I claim you as one of my "online friends"! Not because you're so kind as to mention my contribution, but because (assuming that is your own picture on your profile! :) I can't resist a happy smile! Also, anyone who scores high on the SE "cookery channel" could be useful to know if you ever get a chance to call in for a coffee and a slice of cake! :) Dec 31 '12 at 23:33
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    @FumbleFingers, aw! I'm feeling the love! You got me pegged, words and cooking. Lol! (i'm quite fond of our online friends on SE too, even when we disagree!) Dec 31 '12 at 23:40
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    That's the nicest group of sentences I've ever seen FumbleFingers write on this site and so many smilies! You've clearly got a fan there Kristina, wonder if we can pursuade him to come over to Seasoned Advice ;-) Dec 31 '12 at 23:51
  • @spiceyokooko, FF and I have also sparred a few times on this site! Lol! I agree, he'd be a great addition to "Seasoned Advice"! Dec 31 '12 at 23:57
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    That would be good, perhaps I could kick his butt over there like he kicks mine over here! :) I've been on the end of his sparring too, but he's usually right grumble.. Jan 1 '13 at 0:00

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