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Does ガールフレンド have a meaning of a female friend (like girl friend), or a female romantic partner?

Someone told me it had the former meaning, and I should use "彼女" for a romantic partner. However, the Japanese edition of Wikipedia seems to imply that ガールフレンド means romantic partner, as does the Tanaka corpus. Neither the English nor Japanese edition of Wiktionary have an entry on ガールフレンド.

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Strange as it may sound, but this is the most difficult question that I have encountered on here. It is SO complicated. –  非回答者 May 5 at 14:27

2 Answers 2

彼女 is the word you want to use. Use of ガールフレンド is very uncommon now and would sound a bit like a misguided effort by an old person to sound hip, or something. If you use it though, it will mean romantic partner. To refer to female friends, people use 女友達.

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+1, but my curiosity has been piqued by Tokyo Nagoya's comment, and I'm hoping someone will provide a more detailed answer. –  Andrew Grimm May 7 at 12:27

Without doubt, the most common ways to directly express "lover" in spoken Japanese are 彼女, 彼氏, 恋人, 付き合っている人, etc.

「ガールフレンド」 is a misleading word even for native Japanese, and it stands somewhere between "100% lover" and "100% pure female friend without romantic feelings". And I agree that "ガールフレンド" is seldom used in modern spoken Japanese, maybe because it's long and also ambiguous.

However I don't think this word is dead nor old-fashioned; you may have seen by googling that there is actually a famous and popular smartphone game named "ガールフレンド(仮)" published very recently. I think the current practical use of ガールフレンド is express 恋人 euphemistically, or to emphasize the sense of chastity or platonic relationship compared to directly saying 恋人.

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