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Is it true that 同志 have some different meaning. Like gay (as in homosexual) or something. I know that during the XX century in China and communist Russia it was very common to call people 同志(товарищ). So is it wrong to call some one 同志 in China nowadays?

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Short answer: Yes! I do not recommend calling someone a 同志 –  Stumpy Joe Pete Nov 29 '12 at 18:48

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes it is true. The official word for somebody who is gay is 同性恋者 (tóngxìngliànzhě), but in recent years 同志 (tóngzhì) is frequently used as slang for somebody who is gay.

From Baidu:


The most relevant parts:


In 1989, the Hongkonger 林奕华 named the first edition of his gay film festival "香港同志电影节"


From then on, in China and other Chinese speaking parts such as Taiwan, Hong kong, Singapore, Malaysia, “同志” gradually became the name for gays (and lesbians).

Further on the same page you can read:


In recent years after the introduction in China most young people stopped to use the word “同志” due to its implicit meaning.



Despite its implicit meaning in China which is known and used my more and more people, the official Chinese media (in the mainland) and official documents don't accept this meaning.

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Thank you for such detailed response. –  Denis Kucherov Nov 30 '12 at 7:01
As a side note, 同志 can also be used to refer to bisexual and transgendered people. –  Krazer Dec 7 '12 at 15:11
革命尚未成功,同志仍需努力!! –  Tyler Jun 8 '14 at 10:11

"同志" literally refers to someone else with a "common" purpose (with you). During the Maoist era, the connotation was "comrade," in the context of "Communist" or "party member."

Nowadays, the connotation may be that GENDER is what someone (and a lover) may have in common. That would translate into "homo" or "gay."

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Both meanings are in use now.

While President Hu reviews the People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong in June this year. He shouted 同志們好 and 同志們辛苦了. (Thanks for the hard work comrade!)

In the Pride parade in Hong Kong last month. It is named 香港同志遊行. And artist HOCC came out by shouting 我係同志.

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Well I guess it proves the part of @Bert post that official Chinese media (in the mainland) and official documents don't accept this meaning. –  Denis Kucherov Dec 5 '12 at 8:11
In Hong Kong, 同志 means gay or the way the Chinese Communist Party members call themselves. –  Lai Dec 5 '12 at 10:35

I'm not sure in what instance you'd be using 同志 nowadays anyway. Are you in the army? Do you actually have comrades? Or is this purely hypothetical?

From my experience with the language, if you want to call someone gay, people would say:

他是个同性恋 - tong2 xing4 lian4 

Or, to say someone is not necessarily gay, but they're acting effeminate:

他很娘娘腔 niang2 niang qiang1, or simply, 他很娘

or, idiomatically:

断袖之癖 duan4 xiu4 zhi1 pi3

(Actually, this idiom has a pretty neat back story. Basically, Emperor Han Ai Di was in bed with his man lover Dong Xian, and had to attend a court audience that morning. Not wishing to awaken Dong Xian, whose head was resting on the emperor's robe's sleeve, he had to cut the sleeve off (断袖)).

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I wouldn't say 'acting a bit gay'. Just effeminate. Gay people don't always act in a certain way. –  deutschZuid Nov 29 '12 at 23:02
@JamesJiao Corrected. –  Growler Nov 29 '12 at 23:26
I'm not a soldier. This was hypothetical question. Just to improve knowledge. –  Denis Kucherov Nov 30 '12 at 6:51
what about between members of the party? –  Matthew Rudy 马泰 Dec 3 '12 at 8:30
Also, I'd like to point out that 同志 gets plenty of use in referring to gay people. Google "同志网" to find many many gay community websites. –  Stumpy Joe Pete Feb 3 '13 at 21:26

People born in 70s or before won't consider this word the translation of gay. So be careful when you speak this word with young ones.

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This should've been a comment to the question. –  deutschZuid Nov 29 '12 at 23:03
ok. even though I don't really see situations when I can use this word. I will take this information into account. –  Denis Kucherov Nov 30 '12 at 6:59
@baboonWorksFine: The age range you mention is a quite arbitrary. The people I know born in the 70s all seem to know the second meaning and very few people would still use 同志 in daily life with its original meaning. –  BertR Nov 30 '12 at 11:00

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