Is it true that 同志 has some different meaning? Like gay (as in homosexual) or something? I know that during the 20th century in China and communist Russia it was very common to call people 同志 (товарищ, comrade). So is it wrong to call someone 同志 in China nowadays?

  • Short answer: Yes! I do not recommend calling someone a 同志 Nov 29, 2012 at 18:48
  • For men, call 先生。For women, call 小姐 (But don't use this in mainland China.)
    – velut luna
    Apr 19, 2016 at 7:37
  • 1
    TV series watchers know that policemen are often addressed as 同志,the traditional way of addressing party gatherings attended by some non-party members has been,同志们,朋友们! Comrades and Friends!
    – user6065
    Dec 21, 2016 at 4:01

8 Answers 8


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.

  • As a side note, 同志 can also be used to refer to bisexual and transgendered people.
    – Krazer
    Dec 7, 2012 at 15:11
  • 革命尚未成功,同志仍需努力!! Jun 8, 2014 at 10:11
  • Actually the CPC recently emphasized that the members should call each other 同志, rather than their official titles, to show the equality. In ordinary life, when you call someone 同志 out of this political context, they might think you are weird.
    – Huang
    Dec 22, 2016 at 4:31

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.

  • 1
    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. Dec 5, 2012 at 8:11
  • 1
    In Hong Kong, 同志 means gay or the way the Chinese Communist Party members call themselves.
    – Lai
    Dec 5, 2012 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)).

  • I wouldn't say 'acting a bit gay'. Just effeminate. Gay people don't always act in a certain way. Nov 29, 2012 at 23:02
  • @JamesJiao Corrected.
    – user3871
    Nov 29, 2012 at 23:26
  • I'm not a soldier. This was hypothetical question. Just to improve knowledge. Nov 30, 2012 at 6:51
  • what about between members of the party? Dec 3, 2012 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. Feb 3, 2013 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.

  • This should've been a comment to the question. Nov 29, 2012 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. Nov 30, 2012 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, 2012 at 11:00

"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."


I think people normally don't say that anymore, only if they work for the government. Ordinary people nowadays stopped calling others 同志 because now it has another meaning, which is gay or lesbian.


If you say 同志 in a formal circumstances or talking to elder people, then it is totally appropriate and respectful. If you use it online or in a younger community, most people would think it means gay nowadays.


hello, I am a Chinese, I live in Liaoning, and the following content is all translation software, which may not be accurate. First of all, at present (at least in Chinese Mainland), the word '同志' does not mean 'homosexual'. If I hear someone calling me gay on the street and asking me to help, I will be happy to help him. In fact, in China, the word '同志' currently represents people with the same ideals, with the same heart, People with common goals and aspirations are comrades

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.