142

When I'm talking about my friend, who is a girl, but not a girlfriend, what word or phrase should I use? If the gender was unimportant, it would not be a problem. But if I want to note that the friend is female, not male, how should I say that, to avoid ambiguity?

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    It might help to know why it's important to specify gender. As Mitch noted, this can be awkward for native speakers too. – Kelly Tessena Keck Jan 25 '13 at 13:41
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    Maybe it's simple because I wanted to translate the phrase from my language, and the concept of missing some information by transation is strange for me, but probably this is what could be done – Danubian Sailor Jan 25 '13 at 14:12
  • I think "my she friend" is enough ;) – akbar ali Mar 12 '15 at 12:50
  • "Gal pal" is a female friend and a term that isn't likely to be misinterpreted. – fixer1234 Mar 19 '17 at 2:22
  • @fixer1234 but how widely it is understood? – Danubian Sailor Mar 19 '17 at 19:26
112

My female friend is a perfectly acceptable and understandable way of putting it. A slightly more awkward phrasing that I have also heard is My friend, who is a girl....

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    This is something that has always frustrated me about the english language. Neither of those sound quite right to me, though technically of course, they are right. – GorrillaMcD Jan 24 '13 at 4:29
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    To native speakers this is also awkward. Using just 'friend' brings up the possibility, if knowing they are of opposite sex, that they are a romantic involvement, but to be truthful you want to deny that, but you don't want to seem like totally denying that you're denying even the possibility but they -are- attractive and if it were a different world but you can't say that because on an objective scale they're not -that- attractive either and what if my girlfriend hears this but...oh my god what a mess. OK, just a friend. Dang. – Mitch Jan 24 '13 at 15:07
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    We often work around the problem by saying "My friend Anne" or some such. – BobRodes Jul 4 '13 at 18:22
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    I just read an article where a native english speaker spoke about her friends, who are girls, mentioning them as "my girlfriends". – Trevör Apr 21 '14 at 10:16
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    @JasonPatterson the male equivalent would be "guy friend(s)". – JJJ Mar 13 '18 at 4:42
141

There's nothing in the language that requires you to characterize with a noun. You can frame your discourse much less awkwardly with constructions like:

My friend Sidney? she'll be there, too ...
I have a friend, Sidney, her command of English is amazing ...
There's this girl, Sidney, friend of mine from school ...
You know my friend Sidney, Ed's little sister ...
My friend Sidney's pregnant ...

Talk about the person, not the role, and Great Mother English will take care of you.

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    This is what I always tell my Italian friends: by the next sentence it will become clear. – Groky Jan 31 '13 at 13:29
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    My friend Sidney is Ed's little brother. :) – BobRodes Jul 4 '13 at 18:21
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    It is a tad awkward even for native speakers, but contriving a sentence so as to force a gendered pronoun like "she" and "her" is the ideal way to do it. You get across the idea of gender, but you make it a sub-point that could easily be overlooked if someone doesn't care. Note that if you really want to make a point of gender because it's important, you'll need to be more explicit to avoid the old comic trope, "sure, that's fine...wait, did you say SHE?" – BrianH Jul 26 '13 at 15:52
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    I thought Sidney was a male name. – kinokijuf Oct 5 '14 at 14:38
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    @bubakazouba Just refer to her as your friend, without the name. But if she's your friend you oughta know her name! – StoneyB Jul 17 '15 at 21:22
46

In written English, you could use girl friend rather than girlfriend. According to Wiktionary, the former means a female friend, whereas the latter means a female partner.

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    Absolutely correct, and works perfectly in written English--not so much when spoken, unfortunately. I've always found this topic interesting, as I hear many people refer to male platonic friends as "guy friends" (which would never be confused with a boyfriend) but the difference between "girl friend" and "girlfriend" cannot be heard when spoken. – WendiKidd Feb 8 '13 at 22:47
  • along the same lines as "guy friends" is the term "gal friends." Two notes on that phrase: 1) I've only ever heard it used in the plural 2) I've only ever heard it used by people above a certain age – Yes I use MUMPS Apr 2 '13 at 21:39
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    Don't forget "gal pals"! – Tyler James Young Sep 16 '13 at 22:58
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    In Persian, the difference is "Doost-e Dokhtar" (girl friend) and "DoostDokhtar" (girlfriend). The problem is that English doesn't differ between additive and adjective phrases – Ahmad Feb 18 '18 at 16:00
28

If you are a male, the phrase "female friend" works. If you are a female, the phrase "girlfriend" is actually acceptable, though somewhat uncommon depending on region. But English speakers tend to be unspecific unless the conversation requires you to specify your friend's gender.

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    It's definitely acceptable, but it's uncommon enough that it might cause confusion in contexts where 1) it's not commonly used by women to refer to their female friends and 2) the person listening doesn't know (or wouldn't assume) your sexual orientation (or for that matter, if you are a woman who dates women). – Kelly Tessena Keck Jan 24 '13 at 14:19
  • That's definitely true. I rather expect that within the next few decades this usage will be almost entirely phased out, or be considered somewhat "archaic". – Ken Bellows Jan 25 '13 at 10:42
  • KenB, that wouldn't surprise me at all. I think I know exactly one person (in her 40s, and from North Carolina) who uses "girlfriend" used to mean "a woman's platonic female friend." – Kelly Tessena Keck Jan 25 '13 at 13:40
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    I have actually seen boyfriend used this same way (though in the plural), but only once. This is exceedingly rare. – TRiG Jan 30 '13 at 21:40
20

Probably the easiest and simplest way is to just call her your friend and refer to her with a female pronoun. For example, "My friend Sidney is helping me move. She'll be here in an hour."

"Female friend" or "girl friend" is grammatically correct, but it calls a lot more attention to gender, which can be awkward. (If you talk about your male friends as "friends" and your female friends as "female friends," it implies that they're somehow a different kind of friend because they're female.)

14

You might say "my friend <her name>", if her name is unambiguously female. That avoids the problem without being specific about her gender.

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    OP mentions wanting to imply gender, might want to mention not being too particular in English. "but if I want to note that the friend is female not male, how should I say that" – Ryan Leonard Jan 23 '13 at 21:52
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    @Rhino -- true, but sometimes it's desirable to avoid awkwardness, and to me, "female friend" sounds like one is trying too hard. (Admittedly, I'm from a generation in which "lady friend" is still acceptable.) – barbara beeton Jan 23 '13 at 22:57
  • @Flimzy -- thanks. you've make this answer make sense. – barbara beeton Jan 24 '13 at 20:17
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    @barbarabeeton, I thought "lady friend" implied romantic interest. Not necessarily that two people are a couple, but that they're dating or the man hopes they will be at some point. (But I'm not from the generation that uses it, so the contexts in which I've heard it are probably really limited.) – Kelly Tessena Keck Jan 25 '13 at 13:43
10

It's not unusual in this situation to dispel ambiguity by further specifying the origin or current context of your friendship. This can be done with a simple compound of the context and the word friend (alternatively, 'partner' or possibly 'buddy' - although this is more commonly applied to men).

Examples:

family-friend

school-friend

drinking-buddy

bridge-partner

If you wish to make gender obvious, then it's best to use a pronoun to do this.

  • While "bridge-partner" doesn't imply any such thing, it seems to have become common to refer to someone with whom one is in a committed relationship as "partner" rather than "spouse". While this avoids any reference to marriage, it doesn't imply a casual relationship. (So be careful.) – barbara beeton Aug 2 '18 at 14:25
9

My platonic lady friend.

This states that you are just friends. Platonic says your just friends and avoids lady/female friend being interpreted improperly.

As suggested by J.R. as well, you can say:

She's a platonic friend.

Here gender is shown by the pronoun she.

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    "lady friend" sounds a bit awkward, and in some regions/context has a connotation of a, perhaps illegitimate, romantic/sexual relationship. – Flimzy Jan 24 '13 at 19:06
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    If you use "lady friend", be sure to avoid the problems @Flimzy notes by stressing the first word and leering while you say it. Maybe wink for good measure. – Shog9 Jan 25 '13 at 1:57
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    When you use platonic to qualify your friendship, you're giving recognition to a sexual under-current which is not realized. The word expresses a limitation in a sexual relationship, not the absence of one. – Kaz Feb 16 '13 at 17:29
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    In the American South, especially, "lady friend" has a very explicit meaning of implying a sexual relationship, and it often implies disapproval (though it varies in context and sometimes is just an attempt at expressing a potentially inappropriate relationship in polite terms). Attempting to add "platonic" or anything implying non-sexuality would immediately provoke a reaction of "oh yeah, sure, I'll bet you are just friends". So I assume you'll be going to the party with your very special best platonic lady friend who you definitely aren't having sex with, right? "Thou doth protest too much" – BrianH Jul 26 '13 at 16:02
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    To me, using 'platonic' implies that there could be some love interest, or a very close relationship. Not what I would use to refer to a girl who is just a friend. – Alfro Jun 16 '16 at 13:30
5

If it's just some girl you know, try:

A friend of mine, her name is Hildegart....

or:

Hildegart, a friend of mine...

if it's your girl, use:

My girlfriend Hildegart is giving the ...

protected by Tyler James Young Apr 14 '14 at 14:41

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