There are many ways to say ‘friend’ in German. Whether you’re talking about your best friend, buddy, mate, chum, acquaintance or a stranger, we’re going to examine 10 different ways you can say ‘friend’ in German (including a few other bonus words for ‘non-friends’!)
Freund / Freundin
Translation: Friend / Boyfriend / Girlfriend
The most common way to say ‘friend’ in German is to use the word Freund for a male friend and Freundin for a female friend. German gets a bit confusing when you want to distinguish between a platonic, non romantic interest male or female friend, and a boyfriend or girlfriend.
We need to take a look at the words used before the word Freund / Freundin to discover whether we are talking about a friend or a boyfriend / girlfriend.
- Mein Freund / meine Freundin = Indicates possession = ‘my boyfriend / girlfriend’
- Ein Freund / eine Freundin = No possession = ‘a friend’
- Ein Freund von mir / eine Freundin von mir = No possession = ‘a friend of mine’
If you are talking to someone who is familiar with your friendship status with another person already, you can be less specific.
For example: Susanne is talking to Martin about her platonic friend Andreas.
She says: “Hallo Martin! Ich war mit meinem Freund Andreas im Cafe.”
(Hello Martin! I was with my friend Andreas in the café)
Martin knows that Susanne and Andreas are friends and not in a relationship, so Susanne knows she can say mein Freund Andreas without causing any confusion.
Just don’t do this when talking to new people who don’t know you well, because they will automatically assume if you say mein Freund / meine Freundin you are talking about your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Later on Susanne wants to introduce her boyfriend, Hans and long-time friend Markus to some new people.
She says: “Das ist mein Freund Hans und hier ist Markus, ein Freund von mir.”
(This is my boyfriend Hans, and here is Markus, a friend of mine)
Translation: Buddy / Pal / Mate
The next most common word for ‘friend’ in German is Kumpel. It is much more casual than Freund, and can mean buddy, mate, pal etc. It’s used by guys to other guys in the same way we use buddy, mate or pal in English. The possessive pronoun mein can be used without confusion because Kumpel is only used for friends, not romantic interests.
We can add bester in front to indicate that someone is a ‘best mate’ or ‘best buddy’.
“Ich gehe zu meinem Kumpel” (I’m going to my mate’s (place))
“Klaus ist mein bester Kumpel” (Klaus is my best buddy)
A casual plural often used by women when referring to their close female friends. The plural form Mädels is mostly used in north and central Germany, with the plural form Mädeln is used in southern Germany and Austria. It’s sometimes used by men for women in a friendly or affectionate way.
“Heute Abend treffe ich mit meinen Mädels” (This evening I’m meeting my girls)
“Wie geht’s Mädels?” (How’s it going girls?)
Translation: Dude / Buddy
Alter is very informal and mostly used my male teenagers and young people to address their friends.
“Hey Alter, was geht?” (Hey buddy, how’s it going?)
Bester Freund / Beste Freundin
Translation: Best friend
Used in the same way as the English phrase. The ending in the adjective beste needs to be declined depending on whether we are talking about a male or female best friend.
“Mein bester Freund gibt mir immer gute Ratschläge” (My best friend always gives me good advice)
- Translation: Thick friends
- Meaning: Thick as thieves
The English saying ‘thick as thieves’ means two people who are very close friends and get along very well. Sometimes it can imply that two people are planning or scheming together. The German equivalent is used in a similar way.
“Ich wusste nicht, das ihr so dicke Freunde seid” (I didn’t know you two were such close friends)
“Er und Justin sind dicke Freunde” (He and Justin are thick as thieves)
Enger Freund / Enge Freundin
Translation: Close friend
The adjective eng means tight, narrow or close. Similar to dicke Freunde, it is used to describe two people who are very close friends. Again the adjective eng needs to be declined depending on the gender of the person it is referring to.
“Sie ist eine enge Freundin von Stephan” (She is a close friend of Stephan’s)
The word bekannt in German means ‘known’ or ‘famous’. For example: Der Schauspieler ist hier sehr bekannt (the actor is well known here). But we can use bekannter to describe someone who is known to someone, but not yet considered a friend, therefor an acquaintance.
Er ist kein Freund, sondern ein Bekannter (He is not a friend, rather an acquaintance)
At the opposite end of the scale to freund, we have fremder. Used for someone who is completely unknown to a person. It comes from the word fremd, meaning strange or foreign. You may know the word fremdsprache (foreign language).
Der Hund bellte einen Fremden an (The dog barks at a stranger)
Translation: Mate / Buster / Pal
Freundchen is a word used in a sarcastic or intimidating manner when someone is angry or irritated by someone. It’s a bit like putting ‘mate’, ‘buster’ or ‘pal’ at the end of a sentence in order to show your irritation at someone.
Sie stehen auf dünnem Eis, Freundchen (You’re on thin ice, my friend)
Reden Sie mit mir, Freundchen? (Are you talking to me, pal?)
So now you know 10 ways to say ‘friend’ in German (including a few bonus words). Have you used any of these yourself?
If you enjoyed this post, there are many more posts in the How to Say … in German series.