“Friend” in Japanese — Different ways to call your buddy

In this lesson, we learn how to say “friend” in Japanese.

We also talk about singular and plural forms and different degree of friendship, which sometimes causes difficulties for English speakers.

two girls looking happy while hugging each other

Do you know how to read in Japanese? If not, this article has romaji versions of the vocabulary to help you out. However, we encourage you to learn Japanese alphabet so you can read the words in hiragana and katakana, too.

Let’s get started!

How to Say “Friend” in the Japanese Language

The following words are the most basic ways to say “friend” in Japanese.

  • ともだち (tomodachi | 友達)
  • ゆうじん (yuujin | 友人)
  • とも (tomo | 友)

In Japanese, ともだち (tomodachi | 友達) and ゆうじん (yuujin | 友人) both mean “friend.” However, a native Japanese speaker can use the two words differently depending on the situation.

Example Sentences

あたらしいともだちができた。(atarashii tomodachi ga dekita. | 新しい友達ができた。)

I made a new friend.

わたしたちはともだちです。 (watashi tachi wa tomodachi desu. | 私たちは友達です。)

We’re friends.

かれはわたしのゆうじんです。(kare wa watashi no yuujin desu. | 彼は私の友人です。)

He is my friend.

るいはともをよぶ (rui wa tomo wo yobu. | 類は友を呼ぶ )

Birds of a feather flock together. (Like attracts like.) *Literally, “like calls their friend.

As a Japanese learner, you may find it is not as easy as it seems to use these expressions correctly. In this chapter, we focus on the definition of each word.

For A Casual Conversation

 

Teenage friends posing happily, making a peace sign in a group photo.

ともだち (tomodachi | 友達) fits in various situations when you’re talking casually to a “friend” and is usually used by young people in written and spoken Japanese.

Example Sentences

かのじょとはただのともだちだよ。(kanojo to wa tada no tomodachi dayo. | 彼女とはただの友達だよ。)

She is just a friend.

あしたは、ともだちとあそびにいくんだ。(ashita wa, tomodachi to asobi ni iku n da. | 明日は、友達と遊びに行くんだ。)

I will go out with my friends tomorrow.

For A Very Formal Conversation

Three colleagues engaged in conversation while working together

On the other hand, ゆうじん (yuujin | 友人) is the appropriate word to use for “friend” in a very formal conversation and ですます (desu masu) ending speeches. It can also highlight multiple friends.

Example Sentence:

あすはゆうじんたちとでかけるよていです。(asu wa yuujin tachi to dekakeru yotei desu. | 明日は友人たちと出掛ける予定です。)

I plan to go out with friends tomorrow.

For Formal Written Communication

Two friends sharing heartfelt letters, one reading and the other writing.

とも (tomo | 友 ) is commonly used in written communications and formal situations.

Example Sentence

しんあいなるともへ (shinai naru tomo he | 親愛なる友へ )

Dear friend.

For Business and Formal Situations

By adding お (o) or ご (go) to the noun, you can politely address someone’s friends or companions in Japanese.

You will likely hear ごゆうじん (go-yuujin | ご友人) instead of おともだち (o-tomodachi | お友達) in a very specific scene of formal conversation, including condolences and business partner conversations.

Example Sentences

おともだちしょうかいキャンペーン (o tomodachi shoukai kyanpeen | お友達紹介キャンペーン )

Refer-a-friend program.

ごゆうじんをなくされたしんちゅう、おさっしします。(go yuujin wo nakusareta shinchuu, osasshi shimasu. | ご友人を亡くされた心中、お察しします。)

My heart goes out to you for the loss of your friend.

How to Say “Friend” in Singular and Plural Forms in Japanese

The Japanese language usually doesn’t have a plural form like the English word, but some rules apply to the singular and plural forms for “friend.”

Singular Form of “Friend” in Japanese

The “to become friends” phrases always use a singular form.

Example Sentences

ともだちになろう! (tomodachi ni narou! | 友達になろう!)

Let’s become friends!

アメリカじんのカップルとゆうじんになりました。(amerika jin no kappuru to yuujin ni narimashita. | アメリカ人のカップルと友人になりました。)

I became friends with an American couple.

Plural Form of “Friend” in Japanese

  • To clarify or suggest the number of friends, add ~にんの (in no | ~人の | of people) or other quasi-adjectives.

Example Sentences

ふたりのともだち (futari no tomodachi | 二人の友達 )

Two friends

たくさんのともだち (takusan no tomodachi | たくさんの友達 )

Many friends

おおくのゆうじんたち (ooku no yuujin tachi | 多くの友人たち )

Many friends

However, ともだち (tomodachi | 友達) can work as both singular and plural, but ゆうじん (yuujin | 友人) requires plural suffixes.

Plural Suffixes

Japanese has four plural suffixes referring to a person, social group, or company, and commonly written in ひらがな (hiragana | 平仮名) forms.

The following suffixes work similarly to the English -s with the word friend. Yet, it sometimes indicates modesty, respect, or disrespect. Please pay attention to the context and tone when you use it.

  • ~たち (tachi | 達 | -s)
  • ~がた (gata | 方 | -s) *Formal version
  • ~ら (ra | 等 | -s)
  • ~ども (domo | 供 | -s) *Often very blunt expression

Example Sentences

ゆうじんたちといっしょにりょこうにいきました。(yuujin tachi to issho ni ryokou ni ikimashita. | 友人たちと一緒に旅行に行きました。)

I went on a trip with my friends.

ごゆうじんがたもごいっしょにどうぞ (go yuujin gata mo goissho ni douzo. | ご友人方もご一緒にどうぞ。)

Please bring your friends with you. / Your friends are also invited.

きごころのしれたゆうじんらとのじかんはたのしい。(kigokoro no shireta yuujin ra tono jikan wa tanoshii. | 気心の知れた友人らとの時間は楽しい。)

Spending time with close friends is fun.

ゆうじんどもをつれてはやくかえれ! (yuujin domo wo tsurete hayaku kaere! | 友人どもを連れて早く帰れ!)

Get out of here, all of you!

Kanji Characters for “Friend” in Japanese

友 (とも、ゆう | tomo, yuu) is a Kanji character that represents people who help each other, like-minded companions, and a person gathering around someone. Japanese words that mean “friend” often consist of two Kanji characters and often hold the character above.

Two Kanji Words

Let’s examine the basics of かんじ (kanji | 漢字 | Chinese character) in related vocabulary and their meanings in this chapter.

  • 友達 (ともだち | tomodachi | friend, friends) → 友 (とも | tomo | companion, comrade) + 達 (たち | tachi | accomplished, reach) *Also, pluralizing suffix
  • 友人 (ゆうじん | yuujin | friend) → 友 (ゆう | yuu | companion, comrade) + 人 (じん | jin | person, people)
  • 親友 (しんゆう | shinyuu | best friend, best friends) → 親 (しん | shin | intimacy, relative) + 友 (ゆう | yuu | companion, comrade)
  • 友情 (ゆうじょう | yuujou | friendship, fellowship) → 友 (ゆう | yuu | companion, comrade) + 情 (じょう | jou | affection, feelings)
  • 盟友 (めいゆう | meiyuu | ally, sworn friend) → 盟 (めい | mei | alliance, participation) + 友 (ゆう | yuu | companion, comrade)

How to Say “Close Friend” and “Best Friend” in Japanese

The most common way to say “best friend” in Japanese is しんゆう (shinyuu | 親友 ).

In Japan, many consider this term to be used only for one person. So, adding the plural suffix might lead to misunderstandings sometimes.

  • しんゆうたち (shinyuu tachi | 親友たち ) — best friend and other friends

“Close Friend” to Express Deeper Friendships

Here are various ways used to express deeper friendships in Japanese:

  • なかよし (nakayoshi | 仲良し) — bosom buddy
  • あくゆう (akuyuu | 悪友) — bestie, bad company
  • せんゆう (senyuu | 戦友) — brother-in-arms
  • あいぼう (aibou | 相棒) — partner
  • あいかた (aikata | 相方) — partner
  • つれ (tsure | 連れ) — partner, companion
  • おさななじみ (osana najimi | 幼馴染), — childhood friend
  • きゅうちのなか (kyuuchi no naka | 旧知の仲) — childhood friend
  • くされえん (kusare en | 腐れ縁) — inseparable relationship, unsavory ties
  • かけがえのないそんざい (kakegae no nai sonzai | かけがえのない存在) — irreplaceable person

“Close Friend” For Formal Expressions

Here are some ways to say “close friend” in Japanese in formal situations:

  • ちゆう (chiyuu | 知友) — close friend
  • したしいともだち (shitashii tomodachi | 親しい友達) — close friend
  • なかのよいゆうじん (nakanoyoi yuujin | 仲の良い友人) — close friend
  • こんいにしているかた (koni ni shiteiru kata | 懇意にしている方) — the person I know well

“Best Friend” in Japanese Slang

These are slang terms for “best friend” in Japanese:

  • まぶだち (mabudachi | マブダチ) — *It can be マブ or ダチ in short.
  • しんゆう (shinyuu | 心友)
  • ずっとも (zuttomo | ズッ友) — BFF *It’s originally ずっとともだち (zutto tomodachi | ずっと友達 | best friend forever).

Example Sentences

ぼくたちは、がくせいじだいからのだいしんゆうだ。(boku tachi wa gakusei jidai kara no dai shinyuu da. | 僕たちは学生時代からの大親友だ。)

We’ve been best friends since our school days.

かのじょはわたしのいちばんなかのいいともだちのひとりです。(kanojo wa watashi no ichiban naka no ii tomodachi no hitori desu. | 彼女は私の一番仲のいい友達の一人です。)

She is one of my closest friends.

おまえはおれのあくゆうだ!(omae wa ore no akuyuu da! | お前は俺の悪友だ!)

You are my best and worst friend!

なかのよいゆうじんはなんにんいますか?(naka no yoi yuujin wa nan nin imasu ka? | 仲の良い友人は何人いますか?)

How many very close friends do you have?

How to Say “Friend” in School, Office, and Same Group in Japanese

In certain circumstances, Japanese people prefer the following expression over the direct word to mean a friend or call friends.

  • どうきゅうせい (doukyuusei | 同級生) — classmate, fellow student
  • どうりょう (douryou | 同僚) — colleague, co-worker
  • なかま (nakama | 仲間) — companion, comrade, teammate
  • どうし (doushi | 同志) — comrade, teammate
  • ちゃのみともだち (cha nomi tomodachi | 茶飲み友達) — tea-drinking companion
  • のみともだち (nomi tomodachi | 飲み友達) — drinking buddy
  • あそびあいて (asobi aite | 遊び相手) — play mate
  • ママとも (mama tomo | ママ友) — mom friends, school moms
  • きゅうゆう (kyuuyuu | 旧友) — old friend

English Words Related to “Friend” in School, Office and Groups

The English words below are used related to “friends” in school, office, and group mates in Japanese:

  • クラスメイト (kurasumeito) — classmate
  • ルームメイト (ruumumeito) — roommate
  • グループ (guruupu) — group
  • メンバー (menbaa) — member

Example Sentences

きのあうなかまとりょこうちゅうです。(ki no au nakama to ryokou chuu desu. | 気の合う仲間と旅行中です。)

I’m on a holiday with good friends.

さいしょはのみともだちとしてしりあったけれど、いまではむにのしんゆうだ。(saisho wa nomi tomodachi datta keredo, ima de wa muni no shinyuu da. | 最初は飲み友達として知り合ったけれど、今では無二の親友だ。)

We first met as drinking buddies, but now we’re best friends.

Other Words Related to “Friends” in Japanese

In Japanese, just like in other languages, words for “friends” can change depending on how polite or casual you want to be, who you’re talking to, and the type of relationship. There are different words for friends, strangers, and acquaintances. Some words are used more by men, while others are used more by women.

Let’s learn about these words and what they mean below.

Casual Word for Friends and Genders

The words below are used in casual conversation between friends and genders in Japanese:

  • おとこともだち (otoko tomodachi | 男友達) — male friend
  • おんなともだち (onna tomodachi | 女友達) — female friend
  • かれし (kareshi | 彼氏) — boyfriend *In a relationship
  • かのじょ (kanojo | 彼女) — girlfriend *In a relationship

Example Sentence:

おとこともだちといるほうがきらくだ。(otoko tomodachi to iru hou ga kiraku da. | 男友達といる方が気楽だ。)

I feel more comfortable being with my male friends.

Formal Word for Friends and Genders

The words below are used in formal conversations between friends and genders in Japanese:

  • だんせいのゆうじん (dansei no yuujin | 男性の友人) — male friend, guy friend
  • じょせいのゆうじん (josei no yuujin | 女性の友達) — female friend
  • どうせいのゆうじん (dousei no yuujin | 同性の友人) — same-sex friend
  • いせいのゆうじん (isei no yuujin | 異性の友人) — opposite-sex friend
  • こいびと (koibito | 恋人 ) — boyfriend, girlfriend, partner *In a relationship

Example Sentence:

いせいのゆうじんもまじえて、みんなできゃんぷにいきます。(isei no yuujin mo majiete, minna de kyanpu ni ikimasu. | 異性の友人も交えて、皆でキャンプに行きます。)

We go camping together, including friends of the opposite sex.

Word for Strangers or Others

The words below mean “strangers” or “others” in Japanese:

  • しらないひと (shiranai hito | 知らない人)
  • みしらぬひと (mi shiranu hito | 見知らぬ人)
  • たにん (tanin | 他人)

Word for Acquaintances

The words below mean “acquaintances” in Japanese:

  • かおみしり (kao mishiri | 顔見知り)
  • かおなじみ (kao najimi | 顔馴染み)
  • めんんしきがあるひと (menshiki ga aru hito | 面識がある人)
  • しりあい (shiriai | 知り合い)
  • ちじん (chijin | 知人)

Other Vocabulary for Friends

The words below mean “friend” in Japanese:

  • なかのいいひと (naka no ii hito | 仲の良い人)
  • したしいひと (shitashii hito | 親しい人)

Wrap Up

Indeed, knowing how to say “friend” in Japanese in different situations and forms is important.

It will help you maintain good friendships and relationships with your friends, workmates, acquaintances, and strangers. It’s also one way to understand the Japanese culture.

Additionally, you can find these words and terms in daily conversations, movie titles, popular songs, and comics in Japan. Deepen your understanding using these expressions, which enriches your life and helps you to learn Japanese faster!

がんばってください (ganbatte kudasai)! ^^

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