What is the exact nuance of dude or man?

I'm studying English from Japan. I want to know how people feel about dude or man. Is it just a friendly way to call close friends? Like addressing a boyfriend or girlfriend as honey? Or does it include disrespectful meaning?

In Japanese people don't use you if they're not close friends. Usually they call by name or just don't say you because people know talking to you. But many people call close friends anta, omae, that is meaning 'you' a lot. But anata is a little disrespectful and omae is a really disrespectful word. Maybe it's like strong "You!" or "HEY YOU!" in English.

But using like dude or man a lot. But in English, dude and man aren't disrespectful words? People don't feel annoyed if friends use the words?

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    I hope someone will provide a more detailed answer. I'll just offer this as a quick comment: Dude can be a friendly name among friends – not impolite at all – but it can be considered disrepectful in other contexts (a student should not address a professor as "dude", for example). Welcome to ELL, by the way.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 3:24
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    Yeah, well, you know, that's just like your opinion man - The dude abides. Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 19:52
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    Language is tightly intertwined with culture. As a Japanese, you may not realize that respect, while important to the individual, is not something which people in Anglosaxon cultures think/talk much about. Word choice is governed by a polite/rude consideration, not respectful/disrespectful, and this is more situation dependent. There is also the formal/informal consideration mentioned in the answers, which is even more independent of respect.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 20:25
  • Just a quick note, rather than a full answer. There is a generational issue involved with these terms. It would usually be disrespectful to use dude or man to someone of a previous generation, such as the age of your parents or grandparents, irrespective of the context. Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 22:31
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    @Wad Cheber: This depends very much on which particular subculture you inhabit. Among people of a certain age & cultural background, it could be seen as friendly. In another, it would definitely mark you as an extreme outsider. My best advice for the OP is to listen to the people he's interacting with, and use the words they use.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 6:15

4 Answers 4


Both "dude" and "man" are INFORMAL.

Whether or not they are disrespectful depends on whether you are expected to have a formal or informal relationship with the person you are addressing. If you have a familiar relationship already, calling them either term reinforces that familiarity. If I say to my friend "Check this out, man!" the subtext of the message is that our relationship is such that we can use familiar terms, and it strengthens the relationship.

On the other hand if I find a traffic policeman writing me a parking ticket, and I say "You can't do that, man!" then it is disrespectful. By using an informal term in a situation that calls for formality, I am refusing to acknowledge the authority of the other person and thus disrespecting their position.

Also, a lot depends on the TONE with which you say them. As with any sentence, an aggressive tone makes the same word seem more offensive than a friendly tone.

See, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77v_Q0mhbZU (0:00 to 0:45)

  • It's probably worth mentioning, as well, that man can also be used in a dressing-down sort of way, lending something of a flavour of "you should know better" or "this is no time to panic". Phrases like pull yourself together, man or where is your decency, man may not be as common as they once were, but they're still current. It's taking a bit of a parental tone and can be quite formal. It's easy to distinguish in speech by intonation, but not in writing; an attempt at "archetypal hippy" can come off as "Sergeant Major" in writing if familiarity is not already well-established. Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 13:46

I will also say that in an informal setting among friends, "dude!" with a certain tone is used to express surprise or dismay at something that a man has done/said. I'll give two examples.

Person 1: "I found out today that I got the job."
Person 2: "Dude! That is so awesome."

Person 1: drunk and knocks over a glass during a party and is becoming a bit aggressive
Person 2: "Dude, chill out."


I suggest you watch "Dude, Where's My Car?".

As already suggested, 'dude' is typically considered an informal title.

Consider though, for a moment, Prince William hanging off a cliff. If you walked over to him and offered him your hand whilst uttering 'Dude', he would rightly accept that utterance as an invitation to be rescued, rather than an insult!

In this situation, 'dude' has become quite acceptable, and you will find that words often take on new meanings depending on the situation, and tone of voice of the speaker.

That said, you probably shouldn't go round calling everyone dude, but there are people out there that get away with doing just that, and rarely cause offence.

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    I'll keep that in mind the next time I rescue Prince William from the cliff.
    – Jens
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 9:15

I will say that "dude" is definitely a more familiar word than "man". If you say "hey dude, check this out" you are definitely speaking to a good friend.

If you were in a crowded location (for example grocery store, crowded street), you might say "hey man, can I get through?" but you probably wouldn't say dude.

It should be of note that even in colloquial conversation you need to be more formal when addressing a woman. You would say "excuse me, miss" or address the woman by name.

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