Ukrainian: different words for "friend"

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by mateo19, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. mateo19

    mateo19 Senior Member

    Hello everyone,

    I have noticed that Ukrainian, like many of the other Slavic languages, has more than one word for the English "friend". It is true that in English, this tends to be a general term, a blanket term, to address many spectra of people. I like that Ukrainian is more specific, but I cannot yet distinguish the different nuances between the words.
    Could someone please explain the differences between the following words? Дуже дякую!

    Товариш - I know this word originally meant "comrade" but it is the only translation of friend given in my Ukrainian text book (in the dialogues).

    Друг - I know Russian also has this word and I've always regarded it as the standard word for friend, but I don't know. С.К.А.Й. uses this word in their song "Best Друг" and Facebook also uses it in it's Ukrainian version.

    Приятель - I was excited to see this word in my dictionary because this is the Slovak word! (Slovak has priateľ and kamarát.)

    Знайомий - This doesn't mean friend, but contact or acquaintance, right?

    Am I missing any words? Also, how does one distinguish between a friend and a girl/boyfriend? Thank you once again. :)
  2. Natabka Senior Member

    Ukraine (Ukrainian)

    Hey, Mateo, this was a question I wanted to ask long ago! :)
    At the moment I cannot add any new information to what you've said already, but the gender distinction between friends is tricky when it comes to English. For example, when I say that "I went to the cinema with my friend", nobody knows whether it was a boy or a girl, right? :)

    In Ukrainian we say:
    друг (m) - подруга (f) (you are right, this is the most general and suitable in all contexts and situations)
    товариш - товаришка
    приятель - приятелька

    I have come across that some dictionaries suggest boyfriend/girlfriend as a translation to друг/подруга (including thus the gender distinction). Is it an appropriate translation or does boy/girlfriend has a strong connotation of "a person with whom you have an intimate relationship"?
  3. JakubikF Senior Member

    Приятель is not only Slovak. It is common word in slavonic group. For instance, in Polish: "przyjaciel". In everyday speech we hardly ever say "druh" (equivalent of "Друг") but przyjaciel.
  4. mateo19

    mateo19 Senior Member

    So true, Natalya, so true. In English since "friend" is such a broad word (it has so many different meanings) we use other methods to express our idea. For example, if you say, "I went to the movies (not "cinema" in American English, although the word exists for the film industry) with my friend" then we naturally don't know if it's a boy or a girl. But if you say, "my friend" then we can assume various things: since you used the possesive adjective, this friend may be special to you. Or maybe he or she is your only friend. This is in contrast with, "I went with one of my friends" or "a friend of mine" or simply "I went with a friend". There is also, "A friend and I went to the movies..."

    You asked, Natalya, if boy/girlfriend has a strong connotation of "a person with whom you have an intimate relationship"? Absolutely. Read on to read the one exception to this!:

    In English, friend vs. boy/girlfriend is usually very clear. You date a boy/girlfriend and well, a friend is a friend! (Shame on me for using the word being defined in the definition!) But if we want to denote that someone is more than simply a friend by using the word friend, we use intonation. Observe: She's my friend. (Normal intonation). She's my friend. (Rising then falling intonation on last word.) Then we know she is perhaps a love interest or a special friend.

    Furthermore, girls may have girlfriends without it being romantic or homosexual: "Last night Sarah went to the night club with her girlfriends and they danced all night." Here we know it was a "girls' night out" and not some sort of romantic date. But boys cannot have boyfriends unless they are homosexual. If a guy wants to be gender specific and really emphasize that a friend is a guy and not a girl, we say, "he's my best guy friend" (as opposed to his "best friend who is a girl", not "girlfriend"). Or "these are my guy friends, we also go to the bar on Thursdays". Perhaps that's a dumb example, but it shows some context. So to be very clear, I'll use a personal example. I have two best friends, one a boy and the other a girl. I say: Paul is my best guy friend and Sarah is my best friend who is a girl. I have to say it this way because I cannot call her my girlfriend.

    On the topic of real friends versus mere contacts (like co-workers or acquaintances), in American English we use adjectives to specify, since we could potentially call a friend anyone whom we know and have a positive feeling towards. For example, to designate my friend Paul, I call him my best friend. Then people know that he is more than just a contact. We can also that we're "close" friend or "real" friends or "good" friends with someone to show that it isn't a casual insignificant relationship based on circumstantial happenstances. (Can I even say that in English? haha)

    I hope you find this post interesting and you'll give some more details and examples about Ukrainian! :)

    Agreed, Jakubik, that priateľ is a common Slavic word. I have also seen it in Czech and Serbian. I think it's a great word! :p

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