August 2, 2015

Words of Last Month - Friendship

        I’m late with my post and even later to celebrate the International Day of Friendship which is set by the United Nations as July 30.  However, it turns out that many countries celebrate Friendship Day on the first Sunday in August, so I’m right on target after all!  And in honor of international friendship, here are words for “friend” in lots of different languages.  To make it more interesting, I’ve grouped them so that you can see some cognates.  Cognates, in case I’ve never mentioned it before, are words in different languages that share similarities of sound and meaning because they derive from the same ancestral word.  (For languages with different writing systems, I’ve given the Romanization so you can get the gist of the pronunciation.  I also apologize for lack of diacritical marks on many of these words.  I don’t know how to type them!)  Of course plenty of languages, like English, have more than one word for “friend,” but here I’ve simply listed the one that came up first in the dictionary.  And of course the last group is all the words that don’t share any other cognates on my list.

friend - English
Vriend - Dutch and Afrikaans
Freund - German
ffrind - Welsh

amicus - Latin
amico - Italian
amigo - Spanish
ami - French
mik - Albanian

prijatelj - Croation
przyjaciel - Polish
drug, prijátel - Russian
draugs - Latvian

ven - Danish
venn - Norwegian
vän - Swedish

sadiq - Arabic
saaxiib - Somali

dust - Persian
dost - Turkish

hoaloha - Hawaiian
hoa - Maori

péngyou - Chinese
chingu - Korean (I think these words are related, because Korean borrowed from Chinese, even though they aren’t in the same language family.  This is the same situation for the Welsh word being related to the Germanic words, even though it “ought” to be related to Irish.  There are undoubtedly some other examples of borrowings in my list, too.)

mitra - Sanskrit, Hindi, and Nepali

ystävä - Finnish
filos - Greek
cara - Irish
bandhu - Bengali
yadid - Hebrew
rafiki - Swahili
ikniutli - Nahuatl
nöhör - Mongolian
ore - Yoruba
nanapara - Tamil
agiitaadax - Aleut
tomodachi - Japanese
Lagun - Basque
pheuxn - Thai
ak’is - Navajo
nguoi ban - Vietnamese

        One thing that’s especially interesting about the words humans use for “friend,” is the variety of etymologies.  Many come from roots having to do with love, including friend, amigo, filos, and cara.  Bengali bandhu comes from “to tie,”  while Arabic sadiq comes from “to tell the truth.”  The Japanese and Latvian words come from roots having to do with company.  There are languages whose words for friendship come from “sharing,” and others that come from “caring.”  In short, there are many facets to friendship, and many ways we can talk about it.  But don’t just talk - go out and do something about it!

[Picture: Tree of Life, rubber block print by AEGN, 2005;
Holy Mountain, rubber block print by AEGN, 2007.]


  1. I love the word 'Cara'. From the same origin as 'cariad' in Welsh. This can either mean 'love' or used for 'lover' or 'boyfriend/girlfriend' (we don't have a gender difference like that).

    There is another word for friend in Welsh - 'cyfaill', however 'ffrind' is what most people will say in informal situations. I like cyfaill though, even though it's more formal.

  2. Thanks for the information, Caren. I like "cara" too. (I used to have an Irish friend named Cara.)