If I was the translator, the title should be 《朋友们》or 《好朋友》or 《哥儿们姐儿们》. Why was it 《老友记》? And what does the word 记 mean in such a phrase? Could it mean a record/diary of old friends? Is it the same with a drama of China 《红灯记》?

  • examples of 记 in names of literary works (see 小马词典):史记 Record of the Grand Historian, by 司马迁,太平广记 Extensive records of the Taiping era, (978)狂人日记Diary of a madman by Lu Xun 鲁迅,三国史记 History of Three Kingdoms (Korean: Samguk Sagi),五人墓碑记 Five tombstone inscriptions (1628),倚天屠龙记 novel by Jin Yong 金庸,列王记上/下,列王记,First/Second book of Kings,利未记 Leviticus,创世记 Genesis,哈克贝利・芬历险 记 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,士师记 Judges,大唐西域记, 妙妙熊历险记,Adventures of the Gummi Bears,官场现形记,小屁孩日记,尼希米记,岳阳楼记,西游记,后西游记,撒母耳记上/下,东观汉记,死亡笔记,民数记,浣纱记,浮生六记,汤姆・索亚历险记
    – user6065
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 5:48

4 Answers 4


The title "Friends/ 老友記" is most likely translated by Hong Kong Cantonese

  • 老友 means 'old friend'

  • 記 means 'brand'

老友/ 老友記 is a colloquial Cantonese term that means "old friends" or "good friends"

老友 can also be used as an adjective for "friendly" For example, "無端端同佢咁老友?" (Be so friendly with him for no reason?)

Using 記 to form a nickname is very common in Hong Kong Cantonese,

The nickname for "香港政公署" (Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption) is "廉記" (the 'incorrupt' brand)

The nickname for "有組織罪案及三合會調查科" (Organized Crime and Triad Bureau) is "O 記" ( the 'O' brand)

If a person is named "陳家強", his common nickname could be "小強" or "老陳" in Mandarin and "強記" or "阿陳" in Hong Kong Cantonese

"Friends" is a comedy, and the colloquial term 老友記 carries an informal (casual ; relax) tone, which fits the series very well; On the other hand, the literal term "朋友們" sounds too formal,

Interpret 老友 as "journal of good friends' would sound too formal for a sitcom

  • 1
    I wish I could give you more than one upvote. Anyone who's familiar with Cantonese knows "老友记" is one language unit - a slangy term for "friends, pals, buddies" ... etc. Although one can argue that "记" can be interpreted as "record" and the three characters can be broken into two units and still make some sense, native speaker intuition will tell you otherwise.
    – monalisa
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 14:16
  • Can't blame Mandarin speakers for interpreting the '記' in '老友記' as "record" as in so many book titles. The humor in Cantonese is hard to describe to non-Cantonese speakers. If they see the term '生鬼' , they would think it means "give birth to a ghost" or "a ghost that is alive" . The true meaning of '生鬼' -- "lively, humorous; weird, interesting (in the weird sense)" would not register in their mind. Translate "Friends" as "老友記" is actually very "生鬼"
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 16:07
  • This explanation is quite interesting, but there seems no apparent evdience that the title was translated from English into Cantonese because the title is used in mainland China other than Hong Kong, Macao or Cantonese-speaking areas. Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 11:24
  • @NanningYouth -- There are more people speaking Cantonese in mainland China than in Hong Kong. The person who translated the title might be a Guangzhou native, or a Mandarin speaker who know Cantonese, thought it would be funny to have the Cantonese humor hidden in the title that other Mandarin speakers would not know about. In other words-- trolling the Mandarin speakers
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 12:37
  • the drama was on tvb pearl in 1990s, that the name "老友記" was gotten. zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/無綫電視外購美國劇集列表 Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 16:49

记 here literally means record, you can often see it in story names, XX记 = story of XX.

such as 西游记, and the original name of 红楼梦 is 石头记, story of a stone.

Translating is not always word-for-word, I guess 老友记 may be more attractive than 朋友们 as a TV Drama name. BTW Friends has several different translations, another one is 六人行

  • Interesting for the information of 六人行, and what is the origin of this expression? Derived from Confucius' 三人行,必有我师? or from 杜甫 Du Fu's 丽人行? Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 11:31

Because 老友记 is more like a title in Chinese. 朋友们 is weird, and I advice you to use 们 sparingly. 好朋友 sounds like a children's song. 哥儿们姐儿们 is too colloquial and strongly Northeastern Chinese.


there are 3 principles in translating:in chinese we call 信达雅:信 means the translating should be right first ,then 达,which means the sentence should be fluency,last 雅,which means the sentence should be beautiful and graceful .so 信is easy to us,达is more difficult and 雅 is most difficult. As the friends to be 老友记,maybe you will have your own opinion whether it is good or not based on the above three principles .记in the title of a book usually means the story of...

  • 老友记 as a title to a TV drama is absolutely not graceful, but perhaps it is good in presenting the audience a new variety of expressing the day-to-day thing because Friends is too plain and has nothing to make difference. Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 11:28
  • 1
    To Cantonese speakers, 老友记 does not mean "a record/diary of old friends" and it means more than just "friends", defined as "a person with whom you are acquainted" It means more than that, it means, as Monalisa said, "pals, buddies" also "chums, mates", which actually captures the true spirit of close, intimate friendship of the characters in the TV series. Just doing a direct, non-contextual translation of the title "Friends" as 朋友们 would be just plain lazy and lack imagination. Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 13:22
  • Graceful? Why? That's a comedy! Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 4:04

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