I know young English speakers like to use "bro" to refer to their good friends.

I think "bro" is too casual; I would use it only when the friends are close and I know them well, so I am looking for a more formal or a more one-size-fit-all one for when I want to address new friends or people I don't know well yet.

Can we use "brother" to refer to our good friends?

I don't know why I think "brother" sounds southern or Texan when the "er" is pronunced clearly.

But is it a better way to address our good friends than "bro" or should I say "brotha"?

So "brotha" or "brother" or "bro," or simply "friend"? I just want to sound neutral and kind of show that I am good and chill and don't want others to think I am a cowboy, rapper, frat boy, etc.

  • 1
    "Brother" (and its shortened form "bro") is not a universal term of address for one's friend but occurs in various sociolects, and so it fails your requirement of not wanting "to be associated with cowboys, etc".
    – TimR
    Nov 29, 2023 at 10:02
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    I suppose they spoke a religiolect :-)
    – TimR
    Nov 29, 2023 at 11:22
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    Would have been great if Orwell had called it Big Bruvver.
    – TimR
    Nov 29, 2023 at 13:34
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    Give an example where you might use it. You seem to contradict whether it's for good friends or new friends. And how old you are, where in the world, class, race/ethnicity, and similar things would be relevant. If you were a 50 year old man writing a dedication in your PhD thesis you probably wouldn't use the same word as a 15 year old who's annoyed with his friend for temporarily being a total idiot. (There are so many different words for friend, and if you don't know which to use, just use friend I guess.)
    – Stuart F
    Nov 29, 2023 at 15:21
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    If you're speaking to one person, just call them by their name. Nov 29, 2023 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


You should avoid this, unless you are sure.

This kind of use is very specific to particular groups. If you are not part of that group it would sound odd to call a person "brother".

If you are in a social group, and the other people are referring to you as "brother", then you can copy them. Otherwise don't do it.

The mere fact you have come on the internet to ask if it okay to call your friend "brother" shows me that it is not.

By far the best word to use to refer to your friend is their name. This is "chill and neutral". So say "Hey Joe! How are you?" and not "Hey brother! How are you?"

If you want to refer to a person or group of people by their relationship to you use "friend". So say "I'm meeting my friends later" and not "I'm meeting my brothers later."

  • Hi! I upvoted your good answer! Only World Reference Dictionary says that 'bro' means 'friend' ! Other dictionaries don't say that! Does the word 'bro' mean 'friend'? Nov 30, 2023 at 9:00
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    "Bro" can mean friend in a very limited sense. There are many words in the "friend" cluster of senses: "chum, mate, buddy..." most are regional or limited by social class. Most people would not use "bro" to mean friend. Some people might some of the time.
    – James K
    Nov 30, 2023 at 19:45
  • Hi! Thank you very much! Dec 1, 2023 at 11:24

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