Nakama Meaning – Companion in Japanese

Do you know the meaning of Nakama? Have you ever heard this term being used in an anime or manga like One Piece? In this article we will unravel the meaning of Nakama [仲間] which means partner or comrade.

What Does Nakama Mean?

Nakama [仲間] is a Japanese word made up of ideograms [仲] that means relationship and [間] which means space or time. That is, this word refers to some kind of relationship that you have had for some time or for some interval.

Unlike friendship, it can refer more to a type of temporary partnership or co-worker or team. Below is a list of meanings of Nakama:

  • Companion;
  • Comrade;
  • Co-worker;
  • Group;
  • Partner;
  • Associate;
  • Circle of friends;
  • Colleague;

This term can be used to refer to a member of the same rank, as in the case of One Piece where Luffy refers to the crew as Nakama. It can refer to people from a group, company, circle of friends, set or gang.

Meaning of nakama - comrade in Japanese - one piece

The Origin of the word Nakama

In the Edo period, when commerce and industry developed dramatically, there were so many companies. There were paint specialists, nail specialists, medicinal herb seed specialists, paper professionals and many others.


These merchants came together to create an official union called Kabunakama in order to protect their acquired rights and manage actions between members.

The main objective was for merchants and industries to monopolize the production and sale of goods, preventing the price of goods from falling too much.

There were two trader privileged ties organizations called Omenkabu and Wankabu that created and were allowed by the Bakufu to control and create the organizations.


Kabunakama's numbers were limited, causing the right to join to be transferred or sold as shares. There were systems of rules, donations and trades between groups.

This group of associations gave the current meaning to Nakama which was formerly a simple word that indicated a commercial and organizational relationship.

Nakama - meaning of nakama - comrade in Japanese
The Kabunakama Merchants in the Edo Period

Difference between Nakama and Tomodachi

Some people ask the difference between Nakama and Tomodachi. Sometimes we see both being used with great feeling in anime, is there one superior to the other?


Tomodachi [友達] meaning friend, refers to personal feelings of intimacy and affection, does not necessarily need to involve some activity or have the same ideas as Nakama.

In the case of Nakama [仲間], people who share the same goal or work together in a group or organization are not necessarily close friends, although most of the time they are.

Both words are independent, you can be friends with someone you've known for a while, or you don't need to do something special with your friend to call him a friend.

In the same way, you can be a partner or colleague of someone you'll never be close enough to call them a friend. In short, the word Nakama should be used:

  1. When there is a relationship of doing things together;
  2. When they are people of the same occupation, status, etc.;
  3. When they do things of the same type or category;
List of false cognates in Japanese - false friends

Different Ways to Use Nakama

Nakama goes far beyond a noun, this word is often used together to create new expressions within the Japanese language. In online games you find nakamairi [仲間入り] when you want to join a group.

By putting the phrase together with some other verb, you might end up changing the meaning of Nakama a little bit to something like friend or partner.


Words like bad company can be written furyonakama [不良仲間] which can be seen in Anime like Tokyo Revenger. It is noteworthy that Nakama [中間] also refers to a city in Fukuoka.

Below are some usage examples:

  • [クラス仲間] “kurasunakama” - Classmates
  • [遊び仲間] “asobinakama” – Playmate(s)
  • [ゴルフ仲間] “gorufunakama” - golf friends
  • [仕事仲間] “shigotonakama” - Coworkers
  • [ヤクザ仲間] “yakuzanakama” – Clan Yakuza
  • [演劇仲間] “engékinakama” - Theater group
  • [医者仲間] “ishanakama” – group of doctors
  • [監獄仲間]”Kangokunakama” – Prison friend
  • [旅行仲間] “ryokounakama” - Trip's partner