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The Boston Globe

Ideas

The Word

The secret language of bros

Inside the dudeification of English

Bro has been used as a colloquial abbreviation of the word “brother” for hundreds of years--the OED has a citation from about 1660, “I accompanyd my Eldest Bro (who then quitted Oxford) into the Country.” In recent years, however, as a standalone word (sometimes facetiously pronounced “brah”), it has come to mean something much more specific: bro as in frat bro, a casual, popped-collar term of endearment for a fellow beer-drinking, sports-loving, vaguely collegiate, masculine dude.

Lately, bro- has expanded from being a form of address--“Hey, bro!”--and started to infiltrate the rest of the language. Used as a prefix, it can now be added to practically anything to serve as an all-around indicator of male-bonding culture.

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