The first time I saw these two terms, they were used in a love context, to mean "boyfriend/girlfriend". Later, I came to know that you can also use these to refer to "that guy/girl".

So, what I wanted to know is:
1) Nowadays, what are these commonly used for?
2) Does the meaning depend enterily on context? If so, isn't there a chance to be misunderstood?
3) Does Japanese have a specific term to convey just one of these meanings? For instance, something just for girlfriend?

1 Answer 1


(1) The words are still used commonly as you describe, i.e. 彼 = he/him/boyfriend and 彼女 = she/her/girlfriend

(2) Semantic context is definitely the easiest way to differentiate. Yes, there might be times when the words could be ambiguous or be construed in unintended ways, but that is probably true of some words in most languages. In any case, the speaker will usually make it clear from the context which meaning is intended.

(3) 彼氏 is a term specifically meaning "boyfriend" and ガールフレンド is a term specifically meaning "girlfriend".

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