Etymology of word "friend" in many languages

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by paulhersh, Jan 14, 2008.

  1. paulhersh New Member

    USA, English
    Hello Team! I'm working on a project for my university's president, studying the etymologies of the word "friend" in different languages. Below is what I've come up with so far [Post #1], could you please fill in any that you might know that I don't have yet [Post #2]? Also, if you know of any other languages version of "friend" and associated etymologies could you please let me know? If you see anything below that's wrong or have anything to add, please let me know. Please make all comments in original language and transliterated English please. Thank you!

    Friend (English) - Old English - freond, "to love, to favor," from Pre-Germanic. *frijojanan "to love". Related to Old English freo "free."
    Freundin (German) – Old English: freond, to love - In turn, "freond" comes from "fri", which is Germanic for "to like, to love", and which is also connected with the Norse goddess Frigg, the goddess of love.
    Vriend (Dutch & Afrikaans) – Old English: freond, to love - In turn, "freond" comes from "fri", which is Germanic for "to like, to love", and which is also connected with the Norse goddess Frigg, the goddess of love.

    Sahib (صاحب) (Arabic) - respectful address to Europeans in India, 1673, from Hindi or Urdu sahib "master, lord," from Arabic, originally "friend, companion," from sahiba "he accompanied." OR - the word for "friend" comes from the root "truth," because "Who is your friend? The one who tells you the truth."

    Amicus (Latin) – amare: to love
    Amico (Italian) – amare: to love
    Ami (French) - aimer: to love
    Amigo (Spanish) - amor: to love
    Mik (Albanian) - amicus from Latin

    Bondhu (Bengali) – Indic bandh – to tie
    Bandu (Sinhalese) – Indic bandh – to tie

    Dost (Urdu) – From Persian dost – Friend / Lover

    Ven (Danish) - From Old Norse vinr, related to Latin venus (beauty), also Nynorsk (One of the two major Norwegian languages, literally meaning "new Norwegian") ven (beautiful)
    Venn (Finnish) - From Old Norse vinr, related to Latin venus (beauty), also Nynorsk (One of the two major Norwegian languages, literally meaning "new Norwegian") ven (beautiful)

    Philos (φίλος) (Greek) – phileo: to love

    Péngyǒu (朋友) (Mandarin) - In Shang-Yin (XVI – XI BC) oracle bone inscriptions the character "you" (later – "friend") designated one of types of sacred communication between men and divine ancestors. It implied provision of offerings from the part of descendants and a grant of support from the ancestors’ part in exchange. The character "peng" (later – a part of word combination "pengyou" – "friend") was used as the measure word for "bunches of cowries" being an important component of ritual gift exchange in Early China. The character "bin" (later – "guest") in Shang-Yin time designated special sacred ceremony of entertainment of royal ancestors. In Western Zhou (XI - VIII BC) period it used to designate a type of exchange between men of the same social status, and, on the other hand, a type of tribute delivered by dependent tribes or political units. It also comprised the graph "cowry". Thus this symbol of ritual exchange link the concepts of "friendship" and "hospitality" to each other, making us suppose that gifts used to play an important role in such kind of relationship.

    Tomodachi (Japanese) - Tomodachi is the Japanse word for friend. Tomodachi is written with two kanji: (tomo, friend) and (-tachi, attain). The first kanji comes from the Chinese you and represents two hands ( right and left) working together. The second kanji comes from the Chinese da and isn't relevant to the etymology (it's phonetic, "a word about moving that sounds like da" = attain). The Japanse word itself then stems from the idea that working together to accomplish a task creates friends. For the Japanese this will generally be true, as the members of your ka sei (課制, company work group) are often the people you socialize with the most. A familiar abbreviation of the term, just tomo, translates closer to "buddy" or "pal" (私の友).

    Kaibigan (Tagalog) - the root word "ibig", meaning "to love." Putting "ka" before a rootword signifies a state of being, such as "kasama" (ka + sama "to go with"), literally "being someone to go with" or "companion". Putting "an" or "han" after a word makes the focus of the sentence the direction of the action, such as "simba" (to worship) + "han" becomes "simbahan", a church, literally, "a place to worship". Thus, "kaibigan" could literally mean, "the state of being someone to share love with"!

    Caraid (Gaelic) - Irish, Old Irish cara, g. carat, *karant-; Old Irish verb carim, caraim, I love, Welsh caraf, amo, Breton quaret, amare, Gaulish carantus, Caractacus, etc.; Latin cârus, dear, English charity, etc.; Gothic hôrs, meretrix

    Rafiki (Swahili) - From Arabic رفيق (rafí:q, 'companion,' 'buddy,' 'comrade,' 'partner') < رفق (ráfaqa, 'to be kind,' 'to be friendly, 'to be courteous').

    Drug (друг) (Russian) - Originally, друг was the predicative (short) form of другой ("another"). It is related to второй ("second") < OCS въторъ ("other", "second") < PIE *wi-tero- ("more apart") < PIE base *wi- ("separation") + comparative suffix *-tero- ("-er").
    Draugs (Latvian) – From Russian Drug (and related history)

    Barát (Hungarian) - From Proto-Slavic *bratrъ, *bratъ, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰréhtēr. (Brat = brother)
  2. paulhersh New Member

    USA, English
    [Continued from post #1]
    Paulhersh asked could you please fill in any that you might know that I don't have yet"

    Chingu (親舊) (Korean)

    Chaver (חבר) (Hebrew)
    Me Tra (Vietnamese?)
    Teman (Indonesian)
    Jakkr (?)
    Arkadasim (Turkish)
    Anker (Armenian)
    Přítel (Czech)
    Kamrat (Swedish)
    Znajomy (Polish)
    Ystävä (Finnish)
    Prijatelj (Croatian)

    Paulhersch also asked:
    Also, if you know of any other languages version of "friend" and associated etymologies could you please let me know?

    Please only post other words for friend with a plausible etymology.

    Moderator EHL
  3. Denis555

    Denis555 Senior Member

    Cracóvia, Polônia
    Brazilian Portuguese
    Amigo (Portuguese) - amor: to love
    Przyjaciel (Polish) -> the version you gave (znajomy) doesn't mean friend but an acquaintance.
  4. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Indonesian has at least four words for "friend":

    I don't know about the etymology of teman and kawan, but I think sahabat is a loanword from Sanskrit or Arabic, and that sobat is simply a shortened version of it.

    Sahabat and sobat imply a closer friendship than teman or kawan.


  5. SerinusCanaria3075

    SerinusCanaria3075 Senior Member

    United States
    México, D.F. (Spanish)
    Surely you mean:
    amar: To love.
  6. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    Sahib is used sometimes to describe a friend, however, it actually is a companion, from as you said the verb sahiba = to accompany. The word sahib can be used to describe a companion (on a journy), a friend and a spouse (since they accompany eachother in the journy of life).

    Freind in Arabic is actually Sadeeq صديق, from Sadaqa صدق, to tell the truth. He is called so because a freind does two things: he tells you the truth and he believes what you say. i.e., between two friends is only truth (no lies).
  7. paulhersh New Member

    USA, English
    Does 'sadaqa' have any relation to the Hebrew 'tzedakah' (commonly translated as 'charity' but based on the root for 'justice' (tzedek))? Thank you!
  8. Linafel Member

    España, español
    "Freundin" (German) is feminin; "Freund" is masculin.
    In Spanish, "amigo" (masc.) and "amiga" (fem.)
    And the same in Franch: "ami" (masc.) and "amie" (fem.)
    I suppose there must be more languages that change the noun's form dependig on the geder.
  9. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    That reminds me of another word for close friend in Indonesian: sohib.
    I guess it's related to sahabat and sobat.

    So Indonesian has at least five words for "friend":

  10. cajzl Senior Member


    přítel (Czech)
    priateľ (Slovak)
    przyjaciel (Polish)
    prijatelj (Croatian)
    приятель (Russian)

    are derived from the Proto-Slavic verb prьja-ti (by the suffix -telь)

    derived from IE base *prei- to be fond of, hold dear (> friend), Sans. priyá- dear, desired

    The Slavic words are related to the Germanic friend, Freund, etc.
  11. Sorcha Senior Member

    Ireland, English
    just something I noticed about the etymology of the Celtic words
    you ahve written "Caraid (Gaelic) - Irish, Old Irish cara, g. carat, *karant-; Old Irish verb carim, caraim, I love, Welsh caraf, amo, Breton quaret, amare,"
    I know there is a significant link between Latin and Irish, and the Celtic words remind me of the latin verb could there be) there a link?
  12. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    The veracity of Statement A is questionable whereas that of Statement B is at best limited to the industrialised sectors of modern Japan. Neither of the two, or the two combined, makes a good argument for this etymological enquiry.

    The usages of tomo in older Japanese include; companion, friend, peer and attendant. The idea is doing something together (E.g., An attendant accompanies where his master goes) or having something in common (E.g., Peers belong to the same referent group; a likely group in the ancient society is one's tribe). The togetherness or sameness does not necessarily mean sharing the same project.

    Tomodachi can be analysed as tomo with the suffix tachi (Originally "a group of ~", it is a productive suffix for making plurals). The first consonant of the second element undergoes voicing upon compounding. It may be that tomodachi once meant "a group of friends/peers" but today it is used indiscriminately for any number of friends (including one friend). There is no form to supply a plural. The distinction of numbers —as it never seem to have been the case— matters very little in Modern Japanese.
  13. mkh Banned

    Iran, Farsi
    Friend in Avesta is frya : dear, beloved, affectionate; a friend, a well-wisher.
    Frya may be cognate to friend, related to O.E. freo "free.".

  14. בעל-חלומות Senior Member

    ישראל, עברית
    The word חבר in Hebrew comes from the root ח.ב.ר which means "to connect".

    Another word in Hebrew that means "friend" is ידיד (yadid), whose root - I think - means love, and is also the root of the word דוד (dod), "uncle". I'm not that sure about this one though, so maybe you should wait for confirmation.

    You pretty much answered your qustion. צדקה comes from the root צ.ד.ק which means "justice".
  15. mkh Banned

    Iran, Farsi
    Yadid in Hebrew may be cognate to عزیز (aziz) in Arabic means dear and darling.
  16. Probo Senior Member

    Galicia. España
    Hello: you've got, as well,
    Galician: amigo/a, amar.
    Català: amic.

    Perhaps it's interesting for you the relationship between Latin am-(>amicus, amare) and the Greek ἄμα, adverb meaning next to (Latin and Greek are Indo-European languages, as you know). Saludos, amigo ;).
  17. OBrasilo

    OBrasilo Senior Member

    Koper, Slovenia, Central Europe
    Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese

    Actually, the word most probably originates from an ancient Slavic verb, that means to be in company, or to socialize, which is still preserved in Slovenian, as družiti se, and the word drug for friend, is also still preserved in Slovenian, as an archaism. This word was even used in the Slovenian translation of Bob Dylan's Blowin' In The Wind, as the more common word, prijatelj, is too long to fit in that song's chorus. In Slovenian, also related are the words družaben (meaning sociable), and družba, meaning both company (in both senses of the English word), and society.
    Also, there's the word drugi in Slovenian as well, that means both another, and the second (as in, ordinal number). ;)
  18. Spectre scolaire Senior Member

    Moving around, p.t. Turkey
    Maltese and Russian
    arkadaşım meaning “my friend”, let’s concentrate on the main word:

    arkadaş is made up by arka, “behind; supporter” + the suffix –daş, “fellow with regard to..., companion concerning”, cf meslektaş, “colleague”, literally: “companion of profession” – and many other words.
    :) :)
  19. Wynn Mathieson

    Wynn Mathieson Senior Member

    Castell-nedd Port Talbot
    English - United Kingdom

    Etymology of the Welsh-language word cyfaill (= friend)
    < cyfaillt
    (cyf- prefix) + (aillt) < British *kom-alt-jos (= joined together; joined in friendship)
    The element alt is to be seen
    (1) in obsolete Welsh cyfalle (= union, joining together; spouse) < cyfalledd < British *kom-alt-ijâ
    (2) in Cornish kevals (= joint, articulation) (British kom-alt),
    (3) and in the Irish words alt (= joint, articulation); comhalta (= foster brother, foster sister; member);
    and comhaltas (= association)
    Note: cyfeilles (= female friend) (cyfaill + -es, suffix denoting a female);
    y gyfeilles = the (female) friend

  20. avok

    avok Banned




    Arka: Back, so "Arkadaş" : someone that you can lean on (back to back)
  21. OldAvatar Senior Member


    Romanian has the word amic too, with a very similar meaning.
  22. Spectre scolaire Senior Member

    Moving around, p.t. Turkey
    Maltese and Russian
    I have looked up prieten and amic in my Romanian dictionary, but can’t figure out any semantic difference between them. :confused:

    There must be one, though - even if it is only historical or dialectal. ;)
    :) :)
  23. robbie_SWE

    robbie_SWE Senior Member

    Trilingual: Swedish, Romanian & English
    There is no semantic difference; amic is interchangeable. The difference is that one is derived from Slavic and the other from Latin. Some people think that the latter isn't as strong as the former, because they consider it to be a neologism (even if this can be discussed!).

    :) robbie
  24. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Did you mean to write "Norwegian" rather than "Finnish" here?

    On which topic, I wonder if anyone knows the etymology of Finnish kaveri, a more informal word for "friend"?
  25. OldAvatar Senior Member

    There is a semantic difference, maybe not an official one, but there is indeed a slight difference in modern spoken Romanian. The tend is to use prieten / prietenă for boyfriend / girlfriend, while amic / amică is just a friend.
  26. Lugubert Senior Member

    As has been pointed out, Finnish should be Norwegian.

    Judging from my Swedish sources on the Swedish friend vän (short vowel despite the single 'n'), the above "ven (beautiful)" (corresponding to Swedish vän (long vowel as predicted by the spelling)) has different Germanic origins. For the topical vän, it and its venus relation might have a shared origin with Sanskrit vanas 'lust'.
  27. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    In a couple of threads the Danish/Norwegian


    is mentioned.

    WE can get closer than that, though.

    "Frænde" is an old Danish word for friend.

    Not used any more, but should be understood when read. The Danish title of one of the famous books by J.F. Cooper: Frændeløs. Not sure about the original title but retranslated it means "friend-less".

    I am not sure it covers the full meaning of "friend" (or of "ven") - my notion of it is more like "friend" as opposed to "enemy".
  28. Spectre scolaire Senior Member

    Moving around, p.t. Turkey
    Maltese and Russian
    Just for the record:
    Frændeløs is a book written by Hector Malot (1830-1907) – original title: Sans famille. When it was written, James Fenimore Cooper had been dead for about 25 years. ;)
    :) :)
  29. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Western Armenian: wnkve (@nger), baevkam (paregam)

    I still don't know enough about Armenian to understand how these terms differ.
  30. Asgaard Member

    usa, english

    friend: журмын нєхєр, анд, нєхєр, найз, хамтран зїтгэгч

    dusa [FRIEND] (8x: Ur III, Old Babylonian) "friend, companion"

    Akkadian. ru'u

    and also:

    guli [FRIEND] (91x: ED IIIb, Lagash II, Ur III, Old Babylonian) wr. gu5-li; gu-li; gu7-li "friend, comrade" Akk. ibru

    kulili [COLLEAGUE] (1x: Old Babylonian) wr. ku-li-li "colleague" Akk. itbaru

    niĝirsi [FRIEND] (22x: ED IIIb, Ur III, Old Babylonian) wr. niĝir-si; li-bi-ir-si "(bridegroom's) friend"


  31. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    Yes, both צ-ד-ק (ts-d-k) and ص-د-ق (S-d-q) are cognate roots with meanings related to telling the truth, being righteous, being just, etc.

    Actually, the Hebraic root י-ד-ד (y-d-d) is the cognate of Arabic و-د-د (w-d-d)* which means 'to like or love'. In fact Arabic has a word, وديد (wadiid), meaning 'devoted' or 'friendly', which is the same shape as the Hebrew ידיד (yadiid).

    The Arabic root ع-ز-ز (l3-z-z), from whence comes عزیز (l3aziiz), is the cognate of the Hebrew ע-ז-ז (l3-z-z). Both have meanings of being strong.

    *As the first radical of a root the Hebrew י (y) can correspond to the Arabic ي (y) or و (w).
  32. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Just an idea or a suggestion, Paul: this is quite interesting, but you would not feel like summarizing the main 'roots' of the translations of 'friend' ?

    As a newcomer, one would have a quick survey of the main answers in that way. But of course, it takes some time.

    Just an idea...

  33. thelastchoice Senior Member

    Arabic S.A.
    In Arabic, there three common words for friend:
    1. صديق Sadeeq which comes form صدق Sadaqa to say the truth or to be truthful
    the Plural is أصدقاء Asdiqaa and the noun is صداقة Sadaaqah Friendship
    2. صاحب Sahib which comes from صحب Sahiba to accompany and the plural for صاحب is أصحاب As'haab and Friendship is صحبة Suh'bah.
    3. رفيق Rafeeq which comes from رفق Rifq which is Kindness and friends will be رفاق Rifaq and Friendship is رفقة Rufqah.
  34. Aydintashar Senior Member

    Tehran, IRAN
    Iran, Turkish
    Azeri: Yoldaş - consisting of yol (way) and daş (same, together, common), which together means literary: those with a common way.
  35. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    For a second I thought of companion, as he is the one who often joins you on your way (through life), but basically s/he is someone one shares one's bread with (cum-pane).

  36. tuomaskk New Member

    Actually word "friend" in Finnish is "Ystava". The correct spelling has umlauts on the letters a on ystava.

    Venn is probably Swedish. Finnish is not at all related to Swedish or Norwegian. Finnish is a Fenno-Ugrian language that belongs to Ural-Altaic branch.

    Other words that are similar to ystava: kaveri (=buddy, comrade, tyokaveri= workmate), tuttava (=aquitance, someone you know but are not really friends with yet)

    Compare to other similar words in Finnish:



    When you have a friend, you are no longer alone.

    Who knows what the etymology of the word ystava in Finnish are... what is ystava / friend in other Fenno-Ugric languages, such as Estonian, Magyar (Hungarian), Karelian, Saami...

  37. Corsicum

    Corsicum Senior Member

    Sophia Antipolis è Capicorsu
    Corsu in casa è u Francese à scola
    Amicu (Corsican) - amicus, amare- : friend/lover - amicacciu : friend - amicucciu : lover - Amà : To love
  38. Hilde Member

    norwegian: venn

    In your list you are referring to nynorsk, but I must tell you to be careful here, as nynorsk/bokmål are written languages, and the Norwegian vocabulary is not really devided in two when it comes to spoken language. Though in writing some words are only nynorsk and some only bokmål, in spoken language/dialects, there is no such division. So "ven" (meaning beautiful) is Norwegian, and not really just nynorsk:)
  39. kazim Member

    Nice, FR
    Well,I would say "dost" is the exact word for "friend". You can be "yoldash" without being "dost". "Dost" implies close sincere friendship. "Yoldash" is rather "pal" or "buddy" in English, "prijatel' " or "tovarisch" in Russian, "camarade" in French.
    As for the etymology, I feel the word comes from Persian, although I may be wrong.

    "Yoldash" is also used referring to one's wife (comes from "həyat yoldashı" - lit."friend of life"). In Soviet times, "yoldash" was also used for "comrade".
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2008
  40. trance0 Senior Member

    Actually, pretty much everything you mentioned is also true for Serbocroatian.
  41. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I thought of the origin of comrad/ Kamerad/ kameraad: one sharing the same room (k/Kamm)er in German/ Dutch)...
  42. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Yes, but derived from Latin camera/camara, not from the German/Dutch cognates.
  43. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Giod Lord, another mistake of mine ! --- I agree but was just referring to the Dutch/ German cognates, not really to the etymology... ;-)
  44. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    My remark was just a clarification, not a correction.:)
  45. elpoderoso

    elpoderoso Senior Member

    Isn't there a Polish cognate of drug meaning friend?
    I'm pretty sure I read it in a film's subtitles. I know in Polish drugi means others, but I'm pretty sure in the scene the word was used to mean friend.
  46. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    My Polish dictionary don't thinks so, but there may be a colloquial word like that which isn't in the dictionary.
    Anyway, Polish has druh = comrade; pathfinder (says the very same dictionary) which should/could be a cognate of Slovenian drug (that is, the ancient one which isn't used much more as described by OBrasilo).
  47. elpoderoso

    elpoderoso Senior Member

    I think that you are right Sokol, now that you mention it, it must have been ''druh'''that I read. Isn't it usually Czech that has ''h'' instead of ''g'' though?
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2008
  48. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Usually it is, yes; and usually in Polish "g" stays "g" (I also just checked with a few "g" words, they all had "g" - in initial position, in Polish).

    I took a guess here with Polish "druh" - it may be that it is not a cognate of "drug"; I only think that this is likely.
  49. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    According to Vasmer, Russian drug and the similar words in other major Slavic languages are all cognates. However, curiously, Vasmer cites Old Polish drug with /g/ at the end, not the modern Polish druh. As far as I know, there hasn't been any regular mutation of final /g/ in Polish. Could it be that this word vanished at some point and was then borrowed from Ukrainian, Czech, or some other neighboring language in which /g/ changed into a rear fricative?
  50. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    A loan from Ukrainian would be likely because there were close relations between both nations, and unlikely because Polish, then, was the language of the political leaders (that is, before it became divided in the 18th century; and of course later when Poland was under Russian rule it was the other way round, they didn't like their new rulers).

    I can't really see borrowing from Czech, but who knows; I am still only guessing.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2008

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