Dictionary.com

Are You a Bro?: Brocab 101

bro

Think back on this: 2007 was a big year for the bro. The famous phrase “Don’t tase me, bro!” catapulted into meme-status, and The Onion published a pristine piece called “Bro, You’re A God Among Bros” which parodied the tendency of bros (or brahs, if you prefer) to create portmanbros like Bromo sapien and brofessional. Over the last half a decade, we’ve seen the rise of bromance (a close friendship between bros), brogrammer (a bro computer programmer) and Bronies (bros that are into My Little Ponies), proving bro is an innovative and useful new addition to the English language. While these novel usages find their roots in ’90s surfer culture, they now are ubiquitous among those who have never come in contact with a surfboard.

Whether or not you are a bro might be determined by how you use the word. While bro may carry pejorative connotations, among bros it is often used as a term of endearment as in “Hey, bro. How you doing, bro?” On the Oxford Dictionaries blog, Katherine Connor Martin brings up this metonymic quality of brodom: “by being the sort of person who says ‘bro,’ a person becomes a bro. In the immortal utterance ‘don’t tase me, bro’ it is not the person doing the tasing who is the bro, but the person being tased.” Bros also recognize that the term can be loaded. In a recent interview on Slate, BroBible managing editor J. Camm admits: “There’s still a negative stigma attached to the word bro, [...] But we’re slowly changing that connotation.”

Where did bro come from? It first entered English in the 17th century as an often-written abbreviation for “brother.” By the early 1900s, it could refer to a “guy or fellow” or a “male friend or buddy.” This usage originally surfaced in African American slang to refer to a fellow black male.

Gene Demby, over at NPR’s Code Switch blog, breaks brodom down into four qualities: stonerishness, dudeliness, preppiness, and jockishness (though a bro need not possess all these qualities). Demby asks whether the current definition of bro requires a discussion of race. His informal poll concluded that broness is generally associated with white, privileged men, however, there are exceptions. One Twitterer responded that “It’s about wealth/privilege & often sexist attitude. Not implicitly about race.” For some, maleness is not a prerequisite for brodom either; there are lady-bros (sometimes called Beckys).

While not all bros are white or even male, these presumed descriptions accompany most discussions of bro culture. In September 2013, Ann Friedman suggested that the term bro and its offshoots have taken off so spectacularly in the last few years thanks to the fact that it allows for talk of this particular type of person without launching into a political discussion: “‘Bro’ is convenient because describing a professional or social dynamic as ‘overly white, straight, and male’ seems both too politically charged and too general; instead, ‘bro’ conjures a particular type of dude who operates socially by excluding those who are different.”

In our most recent update, Dictionary.com added a new sense of bro that captured this common usage. We also added a few of the most ubiquitous portmanbros.

(What other words did we add to the dictionary? Here’s a round-up of our favorites.)

What’s the most interesting portmanbro you’ve seen or heard? Does anyone you know call people “bro”? Do you?

75 Comments

  1. wolf tamer and iron miner -  March 11, 2014 - 7:47 am

    @D:
    Hmm…doesn’t sound like my kind of games. I checked out his YouTube homepage and he doesn’t seem like someone whose videos I want to be watching.

    And yet you can get a skin for Minecraft that makes you look like PewDiePie!

    Reply
  2. D -  February 10, 2014 - 9:14 am

    @wolf tamer and coal miner
    I’m not entirely sure. You can always check Youtube for his videos, but I’m currently unable to. (Public computer and all.)
    My guess is that he probably doesn’t, since the videos I’ve heard about involve horror/suspense games.

    Reply
  3. Aviva -  February 9, 2014 - 11:35 pm

    Broseidon, King of the Brocean.

    Reply
  4. bro -  February 7, 2014 - 12:24 pm

    what a coincidence. i’m wearing the exact same sweater that buddy is wearing in that broto.

    Reply
  5. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 5, 2014 - 12:48 am

    @D:
    Thank you so much! Does Pewdiepie make Minecraft videos?

    Reply
  6. myan -  February 4, 2014 - 4:50 pm

    pewdiepies
    awesome bors lol :)

    Reply
  7. myan -  February 4, 2014 - 4:49 pm

    its in lots of things in youtube everywhere teens like me use it !!

    Reply
  8. JAY -  February 4, 2014 - 9:55 am

    Well …this is almost an interesting article. Kinda sorta’ funny in passing. However, since 2007 seems to be the suggested pseudo-genesis of the term “bro”, it may be worth submitting here for accuracy, that it’s use was common parlance among enlisted men, irrespective of any particular branch of service – circa 1969, Republic of Viet-Nam, or just “the Nam”.

    Generally, a term of exclusion if you will, among black enlisted men.(The intention being, if you were not black, you were not a “bro”. It automatically was followed by an extraordinarily complex and eventually tedious handshake). By the way, RAP/Hip-Hop has roots dating back as far as ’69-’70 as well.

    Slowly, however, “bro” was adopted by the “stoner/surfer” crowd, and I think to the current day holds a certain predominance in that crowd. Although, the “How I Met Your Mother” fans have added another not so subtle shift to the usage.

    Reply
  9. D -  February 4, 2014 - 9:13 am

    @RaindbowDash
    Pewdiepie is a popular internet “idol”, sort of. He makes live (or pre-recorded) video walkthroughs of video games, although I think it’s less of a walkthrough and more of amusement at his reactions to some things. This is a second-hand explanation though since I’ve never watched the videos myself, but you can find plenty of them on Youtube.
    Also, from my first-hand experience, a Brony is a male fan–usually around the age of mid-adolescence or late thirties–of the show My Little Pony, not just a male pony. Pegasister is probably the same. (I think you meant that description anyways, but I’m just clearing it up.)

    Reply
  10. PewDiePieBRO -  February 4, 2014 - 8:39 am

    He is awesomeness.

    Reply
  11. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 4, 2014 - 12:41 am

    Okay, now that RainbowDash and I have both asked WHO IN THE MINECRAFT PEWDIEPIE IS, maybe somebody will answer us?? And yes, we know he(she?) is a YouTuber.

    Reply
  12. Burroughs -  February 3, 2014 - 5:17 pm

    The term ‘bro’ – originating as an abbreviation of the word brother – with various nuanced meanings, dates back at least to the 60′s and 70′s, . I’ve heard it used by all races as an affectionate greeting as well as an ironic/facetious interjection in a statement. “Don’t tase me, bro” sounds like something a doper would say in a confrontational situation while it also contains a sense of self-parody. I’ve also heard it in a conversation where one person tries to schmooze the other, i.e., “Don’t you agree, bro?” and the response was, “Don’t bro me, man . . . I’m not your bro.”

    Reply
  13. RainbowDash -  February 3, 2014 - 7:49 am

    WHO IS PEWDIEPIE?!? :/ and, here are the mlp defininitions you guys were questioning:
    BRONY: a boy or male pony
    PEGASISTER: female pony or just a female pegasus
    hope this helps, and again, WHO IS PEWDIEPIE?!?

    Reply
  14. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 3, 2014 - 3:19 am

    Can someone please tell me what videos Pewdiepie has made and what they’re about? I don’t get on YouTube much, like “An Awesome Minecrafter.” Maybe, if I subscribe to him, I’ll be a bro. ;)

    Reply
  15. lyric -  February 2, 2014 - 6:43 pm

    My friends and I call each other “bro” all the time, those of us who use it the most are neither male nor sexist. The description of a “bro” given above is certainly not what we are, or what we think of when we use the term. At least for us, it’s really just a chill thing to call your buddy. The inherent chillness of “bro” is not synonymous with the assholenness described in the article above.

    Reply
  16. Deena -  February 2, 2014 - 5:41 pm

    Even though I am a girl I call my bother bro.

    Reply
  17. Joey -  February 2, 2014 - 9:47 am

    My sister calls me bro for the obvious reason that I am her brother, and I am a brony and a bro in the sense that I am a Pewdiepie fan. Speaking of, is that a picture of Pewdiepie in a hoodie?

    Reply
  18. Pewdiebro -  February 1, 2014 - 10:25 pm

    Once I glimpsed the title, I knew this whole comment section is going to be about pewdiepie..

    Reply
  19. Jack -  January 31, 2014 - 10:25 am

    My dad calls me bro occasionally, but it’s typically in informal situations where it’s just us. For instance; he was driving the car the other day and said,”Hey bro, can you pass me my water bottle?”, point proven.

    Reply
  20. person -  January 31, 2014 - 9:46 am

    People started saying bro way before 2007

    Reply
  21. Artist With Brains -  January 30, 2014 - 9:19 pm

    Pewdiepie: all over the internet. How interesting isn’t it? (Brofist everybody)

    Reply
  22. Jed Keegan -  January 30, 2014 - 6:23 pm

    The only people who are actually bros are PewDiePie’s 20 something million fans and subscribers

    Reply
  23. Jed Keegan -  January 30, 2014 - 6:19 pm

    Why do I think that the person who wrote this is actually PewDiePie

    Reply
  24. lol face -  January 30, 2014 - 1:18 pm

    Bro is always what I’ve called my brother, and only my brother. ._.

    Reply
  25. wolf tamer and coal miner -  January 30, 2014 - 8:42 am

    Also @anonymous:
    I usually say “dude” too. I guess it’s a middle school thing.

    Reply
  26. wolf tamer and coal miner -  January 30, 2014 - 8:41 am

    @anonymous:
    Thanks, but what I meant was what are his (her?) videos about? What makes them funny? (And before you tell me to watch them and find out, my parents don’t allow me to watch YouTube videos without their permission.) ;)

    Reply
  27. asshole -  January 30, 2014 - 8:07 am

    8==D~

    Reply
  28. Hairy Enournmous Monkeys -  January 30, 2014 - 8:06 am

    I love this article is made me pee my pants it was so good. 8==D~~

    Reply
  29. Hamza -  January 30, 2014 - 7:39 am

    The Bro Code

    Reply
  30. JoshBroma -  January 30, 2014 - 12:20 am

    I have to agree it comes mainly from surfer dude culture. It might have been carried over from Hawaii, but they generally say “brudduh” instead of bro. Of course there’s “bubba,” which is a southern word meaning brother, but these days it’s used almost exclusively in a derogatory sense as a synonym for redneck to insult someone with a southern accent. Only very recently have I heard bubba being taken back to its correct roots on shows like Ax Men, at least the Florida constituency.

    As for church usage it’s almost always “sister” and “brother” and “sister woman” and “brother man” just watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It’s not nearly as common now, but it was very common back in the day.

    Reply
  31. Laurel -  January 29, 2014 - 2:58 pm

    Ha, I like this article. I totally agree with the four quality break down of brodom.

    Reply
  32. pegab -  January 29, 2014 - 12:24 pm

    Im a BRONY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I love My Little Pony and I am part of the MLPFC [My Little Pony Fan Club]
    woooo

    Reply
  33. Alpha Tau Omega -  January 29, 2014 - 12:24 pm

    An interesting expression at my college fraternity (Hillsdale College) was “bros before hos.” Now I don’t know where that came from, but it was seemingly not a brand new expression and that was in 1997. I agree with the other people that say that the word originated with the much-caricatured Hawaiian/Socal surfer/stoner culture, where the surfer/stoner punctuates everything he says with words such as “dude,” “sweet,” “cool,” “gnarly,” and the ever-present “bro.”

    Reply
  34. anonymous -  January 28, 2014 - 2:44 pm

    @An Awesome Minecrafter
    Pewdiepie is a youtuber (as said) and is the producer of some of the funniest videos on youtube.

    MLP vocab: Brony=a guy that likes MLP
    Pegasister=girl equivalent of Brony

    And there is the (“new”) Super Mario Bros. wii game.
    Also, I usually stick to “dude”, but I guess that’s to be expected from a female sixth grader.

    Reply
  35. bro -  January 28, 2014 - 12:36 pm

    bruh…

    Reply
  36. bro -  January 28, 2014 - 12:34 pm

    bruh

    Reply
  37. An Awesome Minecrafter -  January 28, 2014 - 2:40 am

    Who the heck is this Pewdiepie person??? I mean, what videos does he have on YouTube? They seem really popular… (I don’t watch many YouTube videos.)

    @Mont:
    I feel the same way, but trolls are trying to get an angry reaction out of people. If you flare up at them, it means they’ve won. If you ignore them, they’ll give up and go away.

    Reply
  38. justin -  January 27, 2014 - 4:47 pm

    you guys have it totally wrong, a “bro” is a white trash dude from so cal that rides dirt bikes and drives a lifted truck, and where metal mulisha clothing and almost all of them are stoners. you can even look up so cal bro on Google or you tube.

    Reply
  39. Ryan J. -  January 27, 2014 - 3:18 pm

    There is also a popular youtuber called Pewdiepie and he has a “Bro Army”.

    Reply
  40. bro -  January 27, 2014 - 3:06 pm

    bro…

    Reply
  41. Bro -  January 27, 2014 - 12:29 pm

    Bro

    Reply
  42. Ellen Spear -  January 27, 2014 - 12:24 pm

    Re: “brah” in light of bro, I was recently looking at a list of Pidgen English words used in Hawaii. I saw the word “brah”, Pidgen for brother, and realised brah and bro must be closely related. It’s not surprising that brah would become part of California surfer culture, probably directly from Hawaiian surfer culture. I live currently in New Zealand where bro is very common.

    Reply
  43. mont -  January 27, 2014 - 12:16 pm

    i highly disagree with your point Craig i just see you as an internet troll and your closed mindedness is similar to the closed mindedness of many awful people i have had the displeasure to meet, i hope your closed mindedness ceases and then you shall forever be in shame for your closed mindedness towards slang many words we use today were once considered slang evidently you have not had a good source material for this view or even your points, and my cousin is medically diagnosed as retarded, feel good about yourself now Craig. Personally i don’t use the word bro however what right do we have to judge them.

    Reply
  44. RainbowDash -  January 27, 2014 - 10:33 am

    Bronies means boy ponies :)

    Reply
  45. Craig -  January 27, 2014 - 7:49 am

    One last thing rich check the definition of some of your words because obviously you need an education yourself in grammar so before you reconcile and distinguish others use of the word make sure you can understand words yourself

    Reply
  46. Craig -  January 27, 2014 - 7:47 am

    Also rich the black guy thing was very irrelevant so instead of being racist be happy that god made people different and not copies that look exactly alike

    Reply
  47. Craig -  January 27, 2014 - 7:45 am

    Btw rickedy rick shut up because people have said that way before the 1997 so just shut up. I find it funny that u would even try to save that brah is actually even more retarded so before u say that check facts retard

    Reply
  48. Craig -  January 27, 2014 - 7:39 am

    Bro is freaking stupid it is just an abbreviated word used for people that think there close but really are just like people say sis. It’s retarded and degrading and I think it should be classified as slang. For all people who say bro your just lazy and really should just accept that. Thank you

    Reply
  49. Justine -  January 27, 2014 - 5:37 am

    The article you linked to by Ann Friedman is extremely bigoted. She has a habit of bigoted writing. Any time you single out a person’s race, gender, or sexual orientation as a reason to judge them, that’s bigotry. Please refrain from linking to bigots in the future.

    Reply
  50. M -  January 27, 2014 - 4:32 am

    I think it is quite myopic to associate bro with only wealth or privilege. I am Ibibio, a tribe in south eastern Nigeria, and I remember on visits to the village, hearing youths calling their older male siblings or relatives ‘bro’, short for brother. That was way back in the 80′s. So, if there seems to be a proliferation of the term now, it should not be associated with white privilege. It’s always been there. Just like the term ‘sis’ seems to be creeping up.

    Reply
  51. wolf tamer and coal miner -  January 27, 2014 - 2:40 am

    My previous comment disappeared. This is a cool article but I have to say I am not a lady-bro. (I couldn’t be a bro since I’m a girl.)

    Reply
  52. An Awesome Minecrafter -  January 27, 2014 - 2:38 am

    Wow, cool. But seriously – “Bronies”? Huh? What a weird and random offshoot of “bro.” Interesting article, though.

    Reply
  53. Ruby -  January 26, 2014 - 5:27 pm

    “Bro” is also a term PewDiePie uses when talking about his subscribers.

    Reply
  54. Lauren -  January 26, 2014 - 3:56 pm

    Bro is what you’d call a friend or a brother. People call their friends bro because they are like brothers and bro is short for brother. Some people use the Bro Code, which is pretty much a set of rules guys use on how you treat your friends…so it’s not a big deal, bro.

    Reply
  55. Khawaja -  January 26, 2014 - 3:41 pm

    a reunion of Bros is a … —> Brounion !

    Reply
  56. Ima Bronee -  January 26, 2014 - 2:40 pm

    Even though I am a hardcore brony, I don’t call myself that.
    Wait, just to make sure a brony is someone who’s between a bro and a homie or should that be a bromy instead???

    Reply
  57. Jake -  January 26, 2014 - 11:45 am

    Beckys are girls that are mad promiscuous and basically just a casual sex hook up for other bros., mostly a black thing (Juicy J from Three 6 Mafia “Get that Becky when I’m gone..” basically saying he’ll hook up with some random broad in a couple hours after he’s faded.

    And Bro is not just for white guys, just sayin

    Reply
  58. Caoimhe -  January 26, 2014 - 9:36 am

    “How’s going bros? My name is PEWWWWWWWWWWWWWDIEPIEEEE!”

    Reply
  59. wolf tamer and coal miner -  January 26, 2014 - 3:58 am

    Hmm. Since I am a girl I’m definitely not a “bro” but nor am I a “lady-bro.” Cool article though.

    @Rickedy Rick:
    I’m sorry about your “Darth Rambo” thing being copied. That stinks. But still, you may not be the only one who started the usage of “bro.”

    My name used to be “wolf tamer and tree puncher” but it has been upgraded to “wolf tamer and coal miner” as of yesterday. ;)

    Reply
  60. Jennifer -  January 25, 2014 - 3:47 pm

    Ok, IDIOTS. The phrase “bro” came out of the CHURCH. We, as believers, are BROTHERS and SISTERS in Christ. Been used longer than most of us been alive.

    Reply
  61. Rwker -  January 25, 2014 - 3:26 pm

    I’ve heard both the “short for brother-man” and a white, middle-class way to assert manliness. Personally, I use it to describe a particular type of dude: young (teens-lower 30s) and obnoxious in the way that they have to comment on everything. But to each their own.

    Reply
  62. Cynda -  January 25, 2014 - 3:11 pm

    Rich – very well put. And as usual we have the “culture vulture” effect. In other words – give props where props are due.

    Reply
  63. Tim -  January 25, 2014 - 6:54 am

    I’m actually surprised Pewdiepie wasn’t mentioned on here..

    Reply
  64. Z -  January 25, 2014 - 6:44 am

    BROFIST!!!!

    Reply
  65. Suman -  January 25, 2014 - 6:42 am

    Enjoyed reading about bro, bro.

    Reply
  66. Carri -  January 25, 2014 - 3:37 am

    RICH – Sorry – comment below should have been addressed to you RICH – not RICK! = typo ;o)

    Reply
  67. Carri -  January 25, 2014 - 3:34 am

    RICK – they are talking about ENGLAND – United Kingdom, not USA! There is a big difference – this is the OXFORD dictionary (British english)

    Reply
  68. Maggie -  January 24, 2014 - 9:42 pm

    Well Pewdiepie (a Youtuber) calls his subscribers ‘bros’ and he means it in a good way.
    BROFIST!!

    Reply
  69. Raj -  January 24, 2014 - 8:57 pm

    1. Bro. is a title used among Christian fraternity to address a man while Sis. is used to address a lady who belong to the same community, usually in those churches that are more fundamental than the formal mainstream churches.
    2. The usage of “bro” is now increasing in India in the context of addressing male friends as brother while “sis” has been used all along for female friends.

    Reply
  70. Scia -  January 24, 2014 - 12:18 pm

    Just thought I’d throw in that you can be a Brony without being a bro.

    “No, we’re not ‘bros,’ but we’re Bronies! (Though some prefer ‘Pegasisters’…)” – From “Let’s Go and Meet the Bronies”

    Reply
  71. Rich -  January 24, 2014 - 12:12 pm

    What the ……? Since when did “bro” become this…… “His informal poll concluded that bro-ness is generally associated with white, privileged men”? Are you serious? Obviously the author knows of no one who lives a life of meager means. “Bro”, where I’m from was short for brother, aka brother man. It was always used as a greeting between two black guys, as a term of endearment. Eventually, if you were cool enough with everyone else in the hood, you could get away being white and calling your friend bro., thus making yourself like his brother, cool and on the same level. This rambling about “bro” being upper-white class phraseology is rubbish.It was never something you’d hear at private school and was only popularized through the entertainment industry in the late 1990′s with the release of hood films. Rich white kids never used the term until they saw “Boyz in the hood.” Either way, the term was meant to show someone that you were/are on the same playing field, no better, no worse, that you are equals in one struggle. Remember 70′s movies black power….”keep up the good fight brother man,” bro is simply a shortened vocalization of this phrase. How it got bastardized to become some fleeting salutation between older white guys who have this intrinsic need to “feel cool” so that their bland lives will be filled with something other than lattes and oxfords, is well beyond me. But I, for one, am against it. Leave the hood lingo where it belongs…and don’t call me “bro” bro, ’cause you don’t know my struggles enough to call me that…dude!

    Reply
  72. chang wang -  January 24, 2014 - 10:25 am

    i’m new here

    Reply
  73. Bro -  January 24, 2014 - 10:23 am

    sup bro

    Reply
  74. Rickedy Rick -  January 23, 2014 - 9:35 am

    Well, dudebros, you all forgot to give worthy mention to “brah”, which I’m also seeing on the internets now in unexpected places.

    Technically, I personally started bro culture, but with a surfer accent, as I’ve been calling people “brah” since 1997, which I derived from Californian surfer slang.

    What I believe happened, was the internet butterfly effect, as my calling people that on internet forums and online games far predated bro culture, but was probably mimicked by onlookers and changed to “bro”.

    My proof of this is comes from my gamefaqs.com nickname “DARTH RAMBO” which I invented in 2002, and have since used on countless other games and forums including xbox live to this day. In 2002 I was the only Darth Rambo on the interwebs. Now there are hundreds of copycats. I can’t even take my created namesake on new mobile phone games I download any longer because some unoriginal poser has already registered with that name. MY name!

    I am very certain my use of “brah” that possibly kickstarted bro culture is another distinct example of the internet’s copying behaviour.

    Anyways, you’re welcome. The article above wouldn’t exist without me.

    Reply
  75. Helen -  January 22, 2014 - 1:52 pm

    In the series “Castle” the two detectives Esposito and Ryan call each other bro. It doesn’t ring true to me. I wonder if a real Esposito and Ryan would be bros.

    Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required):

Related articles

Back to Top