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Comrade means "friend", "colleague", or "ally". The word comes from French camarade. The term has seen use in the military, but is most commonly associated with left-wing movements, where "comrade" has often become a stock phrase and form of address.



The political usage of the term was inspired by the French Revolution. Upon abolishing the titles of nobility, and the terms monsieur and madame (literally, "milord" and "milady"), the revolutionaries employed the term citoyen(ne) (meaning "citizen") to refer to each other. The deposed King Louis XVI, for instance, was referred to as Citoyen Louis Capet to emphasize his loss of privilege.

When the socialist movement gained momentum in the mid-19th century, socialists began to look for an egalitarian alternative to terms like "Mister", "Miss", or "Missus". They chose "comrade" as their preferred term of address. In German, this practice was started in 1875, with the establishment of the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany.[1][2] In English, the first known use of the word with this meaning was in 1884 in the socialist magazine Justice.

German usage

In German, Kamerad, for males and Kameradin for females, is the most direct translation of the word "comrade" in a non-political sense. It has traditionally been used as an affectionate form of address among members of the military: the German funeral march for fallen soldiers is titled Ich hatt' einen Kameraden ("The Good Comrade"). From its widespread use during World War I the term entered the lexicon of the Nazi Party, but primarily between "Old Fighters" who were for the most part war veterans.

Genosse (Genossin for females), means "mate", "fellow" or "companion", and is the main German word for "comrade" in the political sense (outside of politics, it occurs in words like Hausgenosse, "housemate"). It was first introduced as a political form of address in 1875 by the German Social-Democrats, when they established the then-Marxist Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (the predecessor of today's Social Democratic Party of Germany).[1][2] They intended Genosse as a translation of Latin socius ("sharing", "partner", "comrade", "associate", "ally"), as reflected in the words "social" and "socialism". Etymologically, Genosse can be traced to Old High German genōze, with the same meaning, from nōz "productive livestock": originally "someone who shares livestock or grazing land (with someone else)", hence "someone who uses/enjoys (geniesst) something together (with someone else)".[3]

The official form of address between Nazi party members was Parteigenosse, an adaptation of the word Genosse. By adopting Parteigenosse ("Party Comrade") the NSDAP tried to appeal to working-class voters and instill in its ranks the close relationships that were typical of the parties of the Left, but not of traditional parties of the Right. Applied to the German people as a whole, Volksgenosse (racial comrade) indicated shared membership in the German "racial community" (Volksgenossenschaft).

In contemporary German politics, Genosse and Genossin are still used, although with less frequency, in the Social Democratic Party and the The Left.

Russian usage

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'). In the late 19th century Russian Marxists and other leftist revolutionaries adopted tovarishch (abbreviated tov.) as a translation of the words for "Comrade" which were used[1][2] as a form of address in international (especially German) Social Democracy and in the associated parts of the workers' movement. For instance, one might be referred to as Comrade Plekhanov or Comrade Chairman, or simply as Comrade. After the Russian Revolution, translations of the term in different languages were adopted by Communists worldwide. As a result, even though many other socialists would continue to use "Comrade" among themselves (e.g. German and Austrian social-democrats and, for a long time, members of the British Labour Party), it became most strongly associated in public consciousness with "Soviet-style" Communism of the Marxist-Leninist, Stalinist and Trotskyist varieties. This is exemplified in its mocking use in stereotypical portrayals of the Soviet Union in Cold War films and books.

In the early years of Soviet power in Russia, the Bolsheviks used "Comrade" when addressing or referring to people assumed sympathetic to the revolution and to the Soviet state, such as members of the Communist party (and originally of other pro-revolution leftist formations such as the Left SR) and people from the "working masses". The more neutral republican form of address was "Citizen". Accordingly, Tsarist counter-revolutionaries in the Russian Civil War would use "Comrades" mockingly as a derogatory term for their enemies - although at the same time, the various socialist anti-Bolshevik forces such as the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks also used "Comrade" among themselves.

By the mid-1920s, the form of address "Comrade" became so commonplace in Soviet Russia that it was used indiscriminately in essentially the same way as terms like "Mister" and "Sir" are employed in English. That use persisted until the fall of the Soviet Union. Still, the original meaning partly re-surfaced in some contexts: criminals and suspects were only addressed as "Citizens" and not as "Comrades", and expressly refusing to address someone as "Comrade" would generally be perceived as a hostile act or, in Stalinist times, even as an accusation of being "Anti-Soviet".[4]

The term is not used often in contemporary Russian society, but it is still the standard form of address in the armed forces, where officers and soldiers are normally addressed as "Comrade Colonel", "Comrade General", "Comrade Sergeant", or the like. The term is also used as part of idioms e.g. tovarishch po neschast'yu (fellow-sufferer) or as a part of such words as tovarishchestvo (partnership) that do not associate with communism.

Chinese usage

In Chinese, the translation of comrade is "同志" (pinyin: tóng zhì), literally meaning "(people with) the same spirit, goal, ambition, etc." It was first introduced in the political sense by Sun Yat-Sen to refer to his followers.

The Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), which was co-founded by Sun Yat-Sen, has a long tradition of using the term Tongzhi (comrade) 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."[5]

Nevertheless, the term was promoted most actively by the Communist Party of China during its struggle for power. It was used both as a noun and as a title for basically anyone in mainland China after the People's Republic of China was founded. For example, women were nü 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 such 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).

Chinese territories such as Hong Kong and Macau do not have comrade in its popular vernacular due to longtime administration by foreign Western powers which instilled a different language paradigm in the natives of those regions.

Of late, tongzhi has become a common equivalent for the English term gay in mainland China. While it probably originated as a pun on 同性恋 (tóngxìnglían, "homosexual"), it has come to be used with the aim of presenting same-sex relationships as positive and suggesting solidarity between LGBT people.

Southern Africa

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 Movement for Democratic Change are often referred by their names or Mr, Mrs or Prof.

In other languages

  • In Albanian, the word shok (meaning friend, 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 Bulgarian word for comrade is "другар" (drugar), female "другарка" (drugarka). It translates as friend or colleague. In Communist times, it was the general form of address, also used in reference to schoolteachers etc..
  • The Croatian equivalent to comrade is drug, for males 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. It is used in the meaning friend but not frequently (the female form drugarica is even less frequent). It is still used by the far left organization members.
  • The Czech word for comrade is soudruh (female soudružka), although the cognate kamarád is also seen. The latter translates as "friend". As elsewhere in Europe, the term was originally introduced by the Czech Social Democrats and subsequently carried over to Czech Communists as well when these split off from the Social Democrats. However, nowadays only the Communists use it. After the Velvet Revolution, an attempt was made in the Czech Social Democratic Party to replace soudruh with přítel ("friend") as a form of an address, but it didn't catch on.
  • 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[7].
  • The French word is camarade. It is mainly used by communists and can apply to classmates or friends.
  • 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 ideological 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 Hungarian word for comrade is elvtárs. elv means "principle" or "tenet" while társ means "fellow". As the Hungarian Working People's 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.
  • In Indonesian, the words Komrad, Kawan ,or Kamerad are used by communist,socialist,and nationalist political party.
  • The Italian word for comrade is compagno, meaning "companion". 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" (tongmu) or "동지" (tongji, senior comrade). 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 tongmu replaced all prior social titles and earned a new meaning as "a fellow man fighting for the revolution".
  • In Macedonian, the word is другар (drugar).
  • In Malay, the words Komrad, Kawan and Sahabat are used among socialist organizations.
  • In the Malayalam, word sakhavu is used among communist organizations.
  • In Mongolian, the word is нөхөр (nökhör). It is still in use but less than before.
  • In Norwegian, the word is spelled Kamerat. It can be associated with communist lingo, but is more commonly used to refer to a close friend, a co-worker (arbeidskamerat) or a classmate in school (klassekamerat or skolekamerat). In non-communist usage, the word kamerat is considered a masculine term, referring to boys/men only. For girls/women, the term venninne (female friend) is used instead.
  • 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.
  • In Portugal and Brazil, the word is camarada, now being commonly employed to 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 although in Portugal camarada is still commonly used. Brazilian president Lula is widely known for addressing his political mates and supporters as "companheiro", however this usage has been falling shorter during the last years of his presidential term, while it was very popular during the elections, often imitaded by comediants who satyrized Lula's idiosyncratic manners.
  • In the Punjabi language the word for Comrade is veer.
  • In Romanian the exact translation is camarad, a neologism introduced from French in the 19th century, which does not bear a political connotation, referring mainly to wartime allies and friends. During the communist era an older term, tovarăş, derived from a Slavic source, was used to convey the political meaning.
  • The Serbian word for comrade is drug (друг) and is a regular word for 'friend'.
  • The Slovak word for comrade is súdruh. The term "kamarát" is used too, but it is normally translated as friend.
  • The Slovenian word for 'comrade' is tovariš (m.) or tovarišica (f.), first attested in the 16th century. It also meant 'teacher' (as a elliptical form of the official tovariš učitelj (m.), tovarišica učiteljica (f.) 'comrade teacher'). After 1991 it rapidly fell out of use as a general term of address, but is still used when expressing comradeship among individuals.
  • 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 Sinhala, the word is මිත්‍රයා/සහෝදරයා
  • In Swahili, the equivalent word is ndugu for brother-in-arms, or dada for a female comrade. The word ndugu is still used in formerly socialist Tanzania as a way of showing (political) solidarity.
  • The Swedish word is spelled 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). Unlike in Norwegian, the term is commonly used for both boys and girls in non-communist usage.
  • 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 and the Soviet Union unless it is used in relation to the military, as a result it is avoided by most political parties. 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. The term was also often used amongst British Fascists in the 1930s[citation needed]; the anthem of the British Union of Fascists started with the words "Comrades, the voices of the dead battalions..."
  • 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 frequently used ironically in that way. Besides that, it is still used in its generic context by some American socialists.
  • The Vietnamese word is đồng chí, which is derived from Chinese.

In literature

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. Also in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the inhabitants of Oceania refer to each other as comrade.


  1. ^ a b c Anrede "Genosse" nicht mehr zeitgemäß
  2. ^ a b c Otto Ladendorf. Historisches Schlagwörterbuch (1906)
  3. ^ Paul, Hermann. 1960 (7th ed.) Deutsches Wörterbuch
  4. ^ Выходцева И.С. О проблеме общеупотребительного обращения в русском языке / И.С.Выходцева // Русская и сопоставительная филология: состояние и перспективы: Международная научная конференция, посвященная 200-летию Казанского университета (Казань, 4-6 октября 2004 г.): Труды и материалы: / Под общ. ред. К.Р.Галиуллина.– Казань: Изд-во Казан. ун-та, 2004.– C.211-212.[1]
  5. ^ See, for example, the remarks of Frank Hsieh after losing the Republic of China presidential election in 2008: 凝聚黨內團結 謝長廷:我決定留到五二五: "很多同志希望我能夠留到五月二十五日" ("Many comrades hoped that I could stay to May 25". See 中國國民黨第17屆中央委員會第2次全體會議出、列席同志發言須知 ("Rules for speaking for attending comrades at the 2nd plenary meeting of the 17th central committee of the Chinese Kuomintang") for an example of its usage in the Kuomintang.
  6. ^,nsb
  7. ^

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to The Comrade article)

From Wikisource

The Comrade
by Don Marquis


HATH not man at his noblest
An air of something more than man?--
A hint of grace immortal,
Born of his greatly daring to assist the gods
In conquering these shaggy wastes,
These desert worlds,
And planting life and order in these stars?--
So Woman at her best:
Her eyes are bright with visions and with dreams
That triumph over time;
Her plumed thought, wing for wing, is mate with


The world rolls on from dream to dream,
And 'neath the vast impersonal revenges of its

Crushed fools that cried defeat
Lie dead amid the dust they prophesied--
Ye doubters of man's larger destiny,
Ye that despair,
Look backward down the vistaed years,
And all is battle--and all victory!
Man fought, to be a man!
Through painful centuries the slow beast fought,
Blinded and baffled, fought to gain his soul;--
Wild, hairy, shag, and feared of shadows,
Yet the clouds
Made him strange signals that he puzzled o'er;--
Beast, child, and ape,
And yet the winds harped to him, and the sea
Rolled in upon his consciousness
Its tides of wonder and romance;--
Uncouth and caked with mire,
And yet the stars said something to him, and the
Declared itself a god;--
The lagging cycles turned at last
The pictures into thought,
Thought flowered in soul;--
But, oh, the myriad weary years
Ere Caliban was Shakespeare's self
And Darwin's ape had Darwin's brain!--
The battling, battling, and the steep ascent,
The fight to hold the little gained,
The loss, the doubt, the shaken heart,
The stubborn, groping slow recovery!--
But looking backward toward the dim beginnings,
You that despair,
Hath he not climbed and conquered?
Look backward and all's Victory!
What coward looks forward and foresees defeat?


Who climbed beside him, and who fought
And suffered and was glad?
Is she a lesser thing than he,
Who stained the slopes with bloody feet, or stood
Beside him on some hard-won eminence of hope
Exulting as the bold dawn swept
A harper hand along the ringing hills?
Flesh of his flesh, and of his soul the soul,
Hath she not fought, hath she not climbed?

And how is she a lesser thing?--
Nay, if she ever was
'Twas we that made her so, who called her queen
But kept her slave.


Had she not courage for the fight?
Hath she not courage for the years to come?
Hath she not courage who descends alone--
(How pitifully alone, except for Love!)
Where man's thought even falters that would
Into the shadowy abyss
(Through vast and murmurous caverns dark with
crowding dread
And terrible with hovering wings),
To battle there with Death?--to battle
There with Death, and wrest from him,
O Conqueror and Mother,


Hath she too long dwelt dream-bound in the world
of love,

Unconscious of the sterner throes,
The more austere, impersonal, wide faith,
The urge that drives Christs to the cross
Not for the love of one beloved,
But for the love of all?
If so, she wakes!
Wakes and demands a share in all man's bolder
The high, audacious ventures of the soul
That thinks to scale the bastioned slopes
And strike stark Chaos from his throne.
We still stand in the dawn of time.
Not meanly let us stand nor shaken with low
For there beyond the verge and margin of gray cloud
The future thrills with promise
And the skies are tremulous with golden light;--
She too would share those victories,
Comrade, and more than comrade;--
New times, new needs confront us now;
We must evolve new powers
To battle with;--
We must go forward now together,
Or perchance we fail!

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