Women Have Friends, Men Have Buddies

Let’s chat about something I don’t understand about guys. Why do they never call their friends, “friends”? It’s always “my high school buddy and I used to down 40s” or “I’m going on a road trip with my buddy” or “my buddy and I totally watched Sex and City when we were college roommates, don’t tell anyone.”

I don’t get it. Aside from on this blog, where I have to exhaust every synonym for “friend” lest the same word appear in every sentence, I have never called a friend my “buddy.” Never. I do use it every now and then to refer to my 11-year-old Little Brother, but that’s it. Nowhere else.

But guys say it all the time. I assume it’s because they think “buddy” sounds more macho. Less intimate. It’s very “we’re just dudes. we’re buds. no big deal.” But when a guy says buddy, it doesn’t (from what I can tell) mean what I would think it should mean. To me, a buddy is someone you’re friendly with, but not really friends with. A pal, a buddy, someone you’ve hung out with once or twice.

But when men use the phrase, they always seem to be talking about their close friends. Even their BFFs.

There are some guys who go “buddy” more than others of course. A friend of mine from college calls every single one of his best friends his buddy. A couple of weeks ago I was at dinner and a dining companion used buddy exclusively when referring to old friends. My new good guy pal has girl “friends” and guy “buddies.”

Is it regional? These three men are from Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Indiana. (Yes I know that one of those is a city and the other two are states but I don’t know where in Wisco or Indy they’re from.) Is it just pure machismo? Or is buddy just another word for friend that I am totally overanalyzing?

I don’t think so on that last one. Have you ever heard a woman use “buddy”? Ever? I thought not.

There’s some big linguistic study here waiting to happen. I know it. Scientists, you’re welcome. Please report back.

Have you noticed this “buddy” phenomenon? Why do guys love to call friends “buddies.” Why don’t women ever say it?

31 Comments

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31 responses to “Women Have Friends, Men Have Buddies

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with buddy being more “macho.” I’ve heard men use “friends”, but only when referring to couples who are friends of both he and his wife. “The Smith’s are good friends of ours.” Otherwise, I’m with you…I don’t think I’ve ever heard a man refer to another man as a “friend.” I guess it’s just one of those things that make us different.

  2. Well, I have a male buddy and a female buddy. We refer to each other as buddies. We walk about 3 miles together every day. We call each other every day. Sometimes we go to events together or as a twosome or we include our spouses or significant others; i.e., parties, breakfast or baseball games.

    As I have lived in Australia for a short time, The term “mate” is used instead of buddy.

  3. niobe way

    If you read my book “Deep secrets: Boys’ friendships and the crisis connection” you will find the answer to your question. It has to do with not wanting to sound “girl” or “gay.” Believe it or not, calling someone a buddy when in fact they are a BFF impedes the intimacy possible in the friendship. Language matters.

  4. for some strange reason i can not explain, i would never call a friend a dude or a buddy and i would hate it if someone was top call me so

  5. Buddy for males and friends for females.

  6. Jon

    My wife just sent me this. My first thought was that “buddy” is just a synonym for “friend”, but after a minute of thinking about it, I realized that I rarely use the term “buddy” and don’t like being addressed as such by my close friends. It’s “[less] intimate. It’s very “we’re just dudes. we’re buds. no big deal.”” Insensitive, if you ask me.

  7. Anonymous

    I actually have used the word “buddy” when referring to a female, as in: “I need a workout buddy”, which implies someone I like and can work out with, but who is not necessarily a friend.

  8. Stephanie Michaels

    A couple male friends I knew in my teen years used to say this:
    Friends are friends,
    And pals are pals.
    But buddies are people who sleep together.

    So much for macho. That was a long time ago, and now I agree that it is rare to hear a man say “friend”. Many of mine are a bit more hi-brow — they would never say buddy or bud; instead, they say colleague. I usually say friend from work. It’s all very interesting.

  9. “Friend” has become an unfortunate euphemism for “gay lover.” I think guys just want to be COMPLETELY clear that they don’t have that kind of a relationship.

  10. I think that when guys use the term “buddy” they use it in an endearing sort of way. Just like you did with your brother. Sort of a sentimental word used for those they care about. Woman don’t do this at all with the word “friend.”

  11. Maybe it’s regional (or national?) – I’ve never noticed this in Scotland. Some of my male friends call each other “dude” to their faces, but talk about each other as “friends”.

  12. Anonymous

    I frequently address my male dog as “buddy” even though that’s not his name. Do with that what you will.😉

  13. I thought perhaps it was a term to distinguish between female friends & male friends, but the more comments I read, I realized I don’t think this is the answer. Maybe it does signify an arm’s length relationship with someone. Such a shame men still feel they need to put a distance between themselves & their friends.

  14. Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

    I noticed a while back that my husband does this — refers to all his male friends as “buddies” — and I think it’s weird. I don’t think it’s a macho thing as my husband is very comfortable with, or even proud of, the fact that he’s a more feminine guy. Maybe it is a Midwest thing — he’s from Ohio.

  15. I usually refer to women as my friends & men as my buddies. Unless I’m saying something like “Dave is my best friend,”. But it also has to do with the nature of our friendship, if we are really close, you’re my friend through & through. If we only meet up for drinks twice a month, you’re my drinking “buddy”.

  16. In Australia men call their friends, mate. An affectionate greeting is Maaaaaate!!! However, the word does double duty as an all purpose term for anyone. “Please to meet you, mate.” ‘Bruther’ and ‘bro’ are widely used as well.
    My man objects to women using the term friend so freely. He feels it can only be used in cases of deep, longstanding and proven commitment.
    I think White Wave is on to something. Friend is the term for a gay partner and guys don’t want any ambiguity in that department.

  17. cherryblossomsandvodka

    I use the term buddy a lot -but mostly as a greeting or term of endearment. Likely because my Mom and Dad did a lot -they’d refer to us kids as “Hey bud” or ‘Buddy”… I think I started including it a lot because living in Australia everyone says “hey mate” but I sound a bit ridiculous doing so with a Canadian accent. Hey buddy or Hey dude became my greeting for male friends.

    In general terms though I use the word “friends”. I’d only use buddies in reference to my “gym buddies” or “walking buddies” people I hang out with on the regular, and am friendly with, but really only in one situation.

    And now i’ve typed the word buddies so many times it looks funny.

  18. Maybe it’s regional? The guys I know, husband included, call every male and female they know their “friend”, even if they’re just acquaintances. Then of course in person they call everyone “Dude.”

  19. Hi all! I am from Russia and this is my opinion: when lady is introduced by a man as his “buddy” /подружка, приятельница/ – it means that their relationship is not serious, even if they share a bed together from time to time (it happens.. XDDD) So, if somebody is interested in this lady, he can freely converse, dance with her, make compliments and so on. But when lady is introduced as a “girlfriend” /девушка/ – it is expected that nobody among friends will dare to love with her =)

  20. Leanne

    I use the word buddy a lot and I am a female anomaly, I guess. I think I have more buddies than friends, maybe that is why. But I am a heavy buddy user.

  21. It’s because when they were little their dolls were called “My Buddy,” while ours were “Kid Sister.” Remember those commercials?

    Speaking from California, I hear my husband, his friends, and all my male cousins say “friend.” My husband calls his friends “Bud” when they’re talking to each other, as in “see you soon bud.” “Man” also serves here. But when taking to someone else about their “bud” they always say friend.

  22. brianingreenvillenc

    Wow, the fact that you’re asking this question indicates that you don’t understand much about men at all. That’s OK; most women don’t, and actually most of them don’t take much of an interest, so I’m glad you want to know more about us. Here’s the deal: “friend,” like “family,” implies mutual dependence. If a friend disappears from your life, you feel like you’re missing something important and you feel sad. Most men do not want to show that kind of dependence very often. It’s dangerous. If they’re lucky, most men have one or two real friends who are in the “like brothers” category. If a dude (!) really is in that category and you don’t mind people knowing about it, you might publicly call him a friend. Otherwise, though, you want to show that while you enjoy spending time with your buddies, you don’t really need them. I can move on, you can move on, it’s no big deal. That’s what the term “buddy” is for; even though it’s derived from “brother,” in practice it shows that the relationship is at a safe distance and preserves the independence (and therefore, respect, from oneself and from others) of the person who uses it. Same for “bro,” actually.

  23. Several years ago I met a couple only for a few days when I had to break camp. Several people came by to say good bye. The couple that I had just met said, “Boy you sure have alot of friends.” I replied ,”Well yea that’s my job.”
    Being retired and spending a lot of time in RV Parks I get out and meet alot of people. Some of them I call Friends. I rarely use the term Bud… unless it is to pass a Bud.

  24. Yup – don’t think I’ve ever used the word buddy when speaking to someone (friend or otherwise), not even when playing with my 4yo little man.

  25. I don’t know too many guys who use the word buddy. It is either “friend,” “this guy I know from _____'” or “pal.” I use dude way more than most of my guy friends.

  26. I see this with straight guys at work who call me buddy. They are honestly concerned about me, like me, want to hang out, drink, chat. But yeah, they I think feel better, especially since I am a gay man, saying buddy. But I’ve always had friends, very close friends, and the best of them, a chosen few I call brothers, because they are closer to me than my genetic brothers are.

  27. In my country, Latvia, my classmates say that we are friends, but oftenly they make it as a joke. For example, nice friend Ernest, which is referred to, that “friend” actually is a, well how can I say that, the worst possible friend ever. Or something like that. But that is kids level bullying, they don’t mean it, they just want to make a little fun out of it, that is why they don’t take that “calling friend thing” seriously.

  28. So true. I’m a male but I use “buddy” to my guy friends and “friend” to my female friends.

  29. Anonymous

    Interesting. I’ve always hated this term. To me, it sounds immature, silly, and like others here have said, a reluctance to experience real intimacy. I googled this because someone I’ve been seeing just used the term in a text (“hanging out with his ‘buddies'”), and it’s such a turn-off for me. Yech.

  30. rnl138

    Several years later, ha-ha…..I came across your article after googling “my sister-in-law refers to male friends as buddies” because, well, she DOES! It drives me crazy bc she’s like “I really need a new buddy” and I swear she is referring to a male friend that she can screw around with that’s not her friend nor her husband! It is so peculiar bc she uses the phrase constantly and it seems so out of context, immature and down-right childish. It really bothers me and I’m very relieved to read that it bothers other people as well🙂

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