means "friend", "colleague", or "ally", often with a military
or left-wing political connotation
. The term was also used by Italian Fascists
and the German Nazi Party
(Camerata,Kamerade).The word derives ultimately from Spanish camarada
, i.e. a roommate
, from camara
, a chamber
The original (archaic) meaning of the Russian
version of this term (товарищ, tovarishch
) meant something like "business companion", often "travel (or other adventure) mate", referring to the noun товар (tovar
, i.e. 'merchandise').
The common secondary meaning of the term was (and continues to be) simply that of "friend", often referring to a schoolmate (as in 'he has been my товарищ since high school'). This usually implies a less close degree of friendship, signifying something similar to "a person with whom I have a good working (or similar) relationship".
After the Russian Revolution, the Russian word товарищ (tovarishch) was championed by the Bolsheviks. The use of "comrade" soon became widespread among Communists worldwide (much more so than among socialists who were not supporters of the Communist International).
During the Russian Civil War, the Tsarist White Russians used the word comrades (tovarishchi) as a derogatory term for their Bolshevik enemies, particularly those involved in the Red Army and the soviets. Western politicians sometimes mock left-wing opponents by calling them "comrade."
Because of its use by communists, the term is now strongly associated with communism, particularly the Marxist-Leninist, Stalinist and Trotskyist varieties, and the Soviet Union. The term can be affixed to titles to add a Soviet flavor (e.g. "Comrade Colonel"). The usage is fairly flexible. For instance, one might be referred to as Comrade Lenin or Comrade Chairman, or simply as Comrade. While the term has been used mockingly in stereotypical portrayals of the Soviet Union in Cold War films and books, it was frequently employed in Soviet society. In the Soviet Union the term was used essentially the same way that terms like "Mister" and "Sir" are employed. The term is not used often in contemporary Russian society, but it is still widely used today by the armed forces, where officers and soldiers are normally addressed as "Comrade Colonel," "Comrade General," or the like. The term is also used as part of idioms e.g. tovarish po neschast'yu (fellow-sufferer) or as a part of such words as tovarishchestvo (partnership) that do not associate with communism.
The science fiction story Time Heals by Poul Anderson depicted a society in the year 2837 where "tovrash" is a worldwide word for "person", and "Tov" precedes the name of everybody like the present "Mr" - both having, by that far future time, no political significance.
In Chinese, the translation of comrade is "同志" literally meaning "(people with) the same spirit, goal, ambition, etc." It was best known for its widespread use in mainland China after the People's Republic of China was founded, for basically anyone. For example, women were nu tongzhi (female comrade), children were xiao tongzhi (little comrade) and seniors were lao tongzhi (old comrade). However, after the 1980s and the onset of China's market-oriented reforms, this term has been moving out of daily usage. It remains in use as a respectful term of public address among middle-aged Chinese and members of the Communist Party of China. Within the Communist Party, failure to address a fellow member as tóng zhì is seen as a subtle but unmistakable sign of disrespect and enmity.
At party or civil meetings, the usage of the term has been retained. Officials often address each other as Tongzhi, and thus the usage here is not limited to Communist Party members alone. In addition, Tongzhi is the term of preference to address any national leader when their titles are not attached (e.g. Comrade Mao Zedong, Comrade Deng Xiaoping).
The Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) also has a long tradition of using the term comrade (同志) to refer to its members, usually as a noun rather than a title; for example, a KMT member would say "Mr. Chang is a loyal and reliable comrade (同志)."
Recently, Tongzhi has become a colloquial term referring to a gay person with the aim of presenting same-sex relationships as positive and suggesting solidarity between LGBT people.
In South Africa, comrade is associated with the liberation struggle more generally and the African National Congress in particular. The members of unions affiliated to the ANC through their union federation use the term comrade to refer to each other. Comrade can also be a way of describing someone who is an activist, although it has an association with the ANC and the struggle against apartheid or economic inequality. The naming of the Comrades Marathon is however unrelated, as it commemorates soldiers of World War I.
In Zimbabwe, the term is only used to people who are affiliated to the ruling party, ZANU (PF) where the state media also use Cde as short for comrade. Members of the opposition mainly the MDC are often referred by their names or Mr, Mrs or Prof.
Kamerad and Kameradin for females is the direct translation in German language. By those on the political left the term Genosse is usually preferred over Kamerad. This is due to the association of the term with militarism as well as its use by the NSDAP during the Third Reich. Kamerad continues to be used today by those on the German far-right. Kamerad is also used in non-political situations such as within the Bundeswehr, among firemen and in schools for classmates (Klassenkamerad).
In other languages
- In Albanian, the word shok (from Latin socius) was used within communist circles.
- The Arabic and Persian word رفيق (Rafiq) (meaning friend) is used with the same political connotation as "comrade." The term is used both amongst Arab communists as well as within the Ba’ath movement and the Lebanese Forces. The term predates modern political usage, and is an Islamic male proper name. Iranian communists use the same term.
- The Armenian word for comrade is ընկեր ("unger") for boys and men, ընկերուհի ("ungerouhi") for girls and women. This word literally translates as "friend". The term is used by members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation when addressing other members of the party. The term is also used by the Armenian Communist Party.
- The Burmese word yèbaw is used in the Communist Party of Burma.
- The Bulgarian word for comrade is "другар" (drugar). It translates as friend or colleague. It used to be applied to teachers as well.
- The Croatian equivalent to comrade is drug, drugar and drugarica for females. In the period between World War II and Tito's death, it was applied to almost everybody: teachers, officials, etc. Today it is not used commonly, but it translates as "friend".
- The Czech word for comrade is soudruh, although the cognate kamarád is also seen. The latter translates as "friend".
- The Dutch word is kameraad. Although it can be used to refer to communists or an acquaintance, it is used in dialects to appoint someone's friend.
- The Danish word is kammerat (plural kamerater) which literally translates as " mate," or "buddy". It is normally used to refer to someone's childhood friend or friends, but can also be used interchangeably with ven, which means friend.
- The Esperanto word for comrade is kamarado either in the sense of a friend or a political fellow-traveller. In the latter case, when used in writing, it is often abbreviated to K-do. It is the preferred form of address among members of Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda. The word samideano, literally "same-thinker", usually refers to a fellow esperantist.
- The Finnish word is toveri which literally translates as "buddy".
- The French word is camarade. It is mainly used by communists but can apply to classmates and soldiers.
- The Georgian word is ამხანაგი amkhanagi.
- The Greek word is σύντροφος/συντρόφισσα syntrophos/syntrophissa (male/female), used by communists, socialists and other left-wing groups. Other meanings of this word are: mate, pal, friend, companion, even partner or associate etc.
- The Hebrew equivalent is Chaver (חבר), a word which can mean both "friend" and "member" (of a group or organization). During the time of Socialist Zionist political and ideoligical dominance of the 1930s to the 1960s, the word in a sense similar to English "comrade" was in widespread use, in the Kibbutz movement, the Histadrut trade unions, the driver-owned bus companies etc. At present, its political use is considered old-fashioned, mainly restricted to Israeli Communists. (The same word exists also in Yiddish, from which is derived the colloquial Australian word "cobber".)
- The Hindi equivalent for "Comrade" is kaamred(कामरेड) or saathi(साथी). It is widely used among all leftist(communist) parties of india, i.e. CPI(M), CPI,RSP,FORWARD BLOC or others.
- The Hungarian word for comrade is elvtárs. Elvtárs was a neologism introduced by the communists; elv means "principle" or "tenet" while társ means "fellow". As the Hungarian Workers' Party gradually gained power after the Second World War, the word displaced all prior titles like úr ("Mister") and became the title used generally for everyone except for people who were obviously not "tenet fellows" e.g. those who committed political crime against the socialist state. After the democratic transition the word became obsolete and it is used derogatory to address politicians on the political left.
- The Icelandic word for comrade is félagi. It is used as a less intimate alternative to vinur (friend). It is also the word used for a "member" of club or association. When used as a title to precede a name (i.e. félagi Tító or félagi Dimitroff) it has a communist implication.
- The Italian word for comrade is compagno, meaning "fellow". The word camerata, meaning "roommate", is the fascist equivalent.
- The Japanese word for comrade is "同志 (dōshi)", the same word used in Chinese. The word is used to refer to like-minded persons and the usage is not necessarily limited to Communists, though the word is to some extent associated with Communism. The word should not be confused with a homonym "同士", which is a more commonly used postfix to show people sharing a certain property.
- In Korean, a good equivalent of the word would be "동무" (dongmu), literally meaning "friend". Although the word was originally used by the Korean people all over the Korean Peninsula, people living south of the 38th Parallel begin avoiding using the word after a communist regime was set up in the north. In North Korea, the word replaced all prior social titles and earned a new meaning as "a fellow man fighting for the revolution". Today, usage of the word "동무" in South Korea could attract suspicious eyes from the public, as it has been stereotyped that only communists would use the word.
- In Malay, the words Komrad, Kawan and Sahabat are used among socialist organizations.
- In the Malayalam, word sakhavu is used among communist organizations.
- The Nepali equivalent for "Comrade" is kaamred(कमरेड) or saathi(साथी)like in Hindi. Its being used by communists in Nepal like CPN(Maoists), CPN(UML), Janamorcha Nepal and others.
- In Norwegian, the word is kamerat. It can be associated with communist lingo, but may just as well be used to refer to a friend, a co-worker (arbeidskamerat) or a classmate in school (klassekamerat or skolekamerat).
- In the Philippines, communist and left-leaning activists prefer the term kasama (roughly, companion), and the short form, ka before the name, as in Ka Bel (referring to labor leader Crispin Beltran;religious personalities also use ka, in this sense referring to kapatid (brother/sister).
- In Poland, the word is towarzysz, which has the same origin as the Russian word. However, after the fall of communism in Poland a person who uses the word referring to classmates or roommates may be labelled a communist, which has a negative connotation in Polish society.
- In Portugal and Brazil, the word is camarada, now being commonly employed to sarcastically refer to communists or supporters of the communist system (result of the overusage of the term in the post-revolutionary society). It is also prevalent in the army, and has been gaining popularity among nationalist movements. The term used among socialist activists nowadays tends to be companheiro / companheira.
- In the Punjabi language the word for Comrade is veer.
- In Romanian the exact translation is camarad which does not bear a political connotation, referring mainly to wartime allies and friends. The term used during the communist era was tovarăş, which is the same as the Russian word.
- The Serbian word for comrade is drug and is a regular word for 'friend'.
- The Slovak word for comrade is súdruh. Slovak language also knows a term "kamarát" too, but it is normally translated as a friend.
- In Slovenia comrade is similar to the Russian translation - Tovariš - which incidentally can also mean "teacher".
- In Spain, the word is compañero / compañera ("companion"); the term camarada ("companion", "friend") has also been used, but it's more associated with the communist tradition. In Spain the word "compañero" can be (and often is) used with no political connotation.
- The standard form in Cuba is compañero / compañera, as it was in socialist Nicaragua and Chile. In some parts of Latin America, camarada is the more frequent word, except in Peru, where the term is commonly associated with Shining Path, members of the social-democrat party APRA employ compañero to refer to fellow members of the party. The term "camarada" is the more normal among Spanish Communists.
- In Swahili, the equivalent word is ndugu for brother-in-arms, or dada for a female comrade.
- The Swedish word is kamrat. Although it can be associated with communist lingo it may just as well be used to refer to a friend, a co-worker (arbetskamrat) or a classmate in school (klasskamrat or skolkamrat).
- The Tamil word for comrade is Thozhare (தோழரே) and is a regular word for 'friend'.
- The Thai word sahai (สหาย) was used in the communist movement.
- The Turkish word Yoldaş (literally co-traveller) has become used within the communist movement. In the climate of harsh anticommunist repression the word largely disappeared from common usage.
- In the United Kingdom, the term comrade is strongly associated with Communism. It is still used as a form of address among members of the Communist Party of Britain, smaller parties of the left, and a declining number of Labour Party members. Use of the term is generally restricted to people with whom the speaker agrees politically. It is usually written in full, the abbreviation "Cde" being associated with southern African usage. The honorific terms "sister" and "brother", also declining in usage, are more politically inclusive, encompassing everyone from the centre-left to the far-left, without necessarily indicating complete political agreement. All three terms are occasionally used in a mocking or patronising manner by political opponents.
- In the United States, the word "comrade" carries a very strong connotation of being associated with Communism, Marxism-Leninism, and the Soviet Union in general. Especially during the Cold War, to address someone as "comrade" marked either the speaker, person addressed, or both as suspected communist sympathizers. It is still used in its generic context by some American socialists, even strong anti-communists. It latterly is frequently used with humorous intent. However in recent years, from 2000 and on, the term "Comrade" is now a reminensence of the communist witch hunt period. Now the term "comrade" is actually used to describe friendship or even teamwork.
- The Vietnamese word is đồng chí.
In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, the animals all refer to each other as comrade, as the story is a satirical look at the Russian Revolution.