The Meaning of Bruv: What It Is and How To Use It

This guide will give you all of the info you need on the word bruv, including its meaning, usage, origin, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word bruv mean?

The internet slang term “bruv” is an abbreviation for the word “brother,” according to Cyber Definitions. This is most commonly used in the United Kingdom and South London, but has become popularized all around the world from social media sites like Twitter and TikTok. It is used to refer to one’s close friend, and typically not someone who is blood related. “Bruv” or “bruvva” are used colloquially, as a term of endearment for one’s friends.

BBC states that the spelling “bruv” is a common abbreviation in information writing, texts, or song lyrics to represent the “oth” sounds. This stems from a specific pronunciation in London, in which people replace the “th” sound with “v” or “f” sounds. For example, London rapper Dizzee Rascal released a song in 2008 called “Dance Wiv Me,” in which “wiv” is slang for the word “with.”

What is the etymology of the word bruv?

The English slang variation of “brother,” “bruv” has a common origin with the terms “bro,” “bruvver,” and “bruh.” All of these stem from calling someone “brother.” This does not necessarily mean one is using the term to refer to their blood related brother, but is often used to refer to a close friend or pal, who is like family.

Slate states that using “bro” as an abbreviation for the word brother can be traced back to the mid-1600s. These conversational, colloquial uses in which “bro” is used to refer to a close friend or confidante began appearing in the mid to late 18th century. The burlesque play Homer Travestie from 1762 uses the word “bro” several times, implying that it was even used as a slang or low class term in the 1700s. People began using “bro” as an abbreviation in letters and other writing forms, and this abbreviation migrated into the casual vernacular. 

In the past 100 years, it gained popularity in the Black community, stemming from the use of “brother” in the Black church from likely the 19th century. Since the 1960s, the Black community has brought the term “brother” back into conversation and pop culture. This term was used to refer to other Black people to create a common bond in the Black community in the face of discrimination. From here, it became an appropriated term used by other races that has made its way into common speech.

Etymologeek states that the use of the slang term “bruv” in the United Kingdom stemmed from the Cockney or colloquial pronunciation of the word “brother.” It was pronounced “bruvver” or “bruvva,” which was then shortened to simply “bruv.”

From here, “bruv” has been coupled with other English colloquialisms to create common phrases. The most popular one of these, which has made its way from the United Kingdom worldwide via social media sites like Twitter and TikTok, is “innit bruv.” Business Insider states that “innit” is an abbreviation of the phrase “isn’t it,” and is used by English youth to confirm or agree with another person. 

How can the word bruv be used in a sentence?

Bruv can be used in casual conversation between friends. In this first example, Alex meets up with his close friend Tom after school.

Alex: Hey bruv, what’s happenin’?

Tom: Not much, mate, you?

Alex: Just chillin’.

Here, Alex and Tom both use casual words that mean “friend” or “pal.” Alex uses bruv, while Tom uses mate. In this next example, Bernardo and Kevin are talking about their difficult upcoming exams.

Bernardo: Eight exams in one week, it’s gonna be killer. 

Kevin: I know. I feel like every time I study, I learn one fact and forget another. It’s torture.

Bernardo: Innit bruv.

Here, Bernardo uses the phrase “innit bruv” to imply that he agrees with Kevin’s statement that their exams will be torturous. “Innit” is short for “isn’t it,” and implies agreement, while “bruv” is used colloquially to refer to Kevin as a friend and confidante. 

Is the word bruv casual or formal?

Bruv is an extremely casual term and should not be used in any formal settings, like professional emails, resumes, or other professional correspondence. Bruv should be reserved exclusively for casual usage among friends. This slang term is not appropriate to use with colleagues or bosses, or in situations in which slang is frowned upon. If one were to use the term bruv in a more formal or professional setting, one may view this as disrespectful. The term bruv, along with other slang terms, should only be used in extremely casual settings.

What are synonyms for the slang term bruv?

Word Hippo lists numerous synonyms for the slang term “bruv” that can be used in its place.

  • Bro
  • Brother
  • Bra
  • Brah
  • Broheme
  • Broseph
  • Broski
  • Bruh
  • Dude
  • Fells
  • Chap
  • Fam
  • Buddy
  • Mate
  • Chum
  • Amigo
  • Compadre
  • Homie
  • Homeboy
  • Cuz
  • Old bean

Overall, the term “bruv” is a colloquial English term meaning “brother.” This term is used to refer to a friend that one is close with, often of a similar age. This slang term is common amongst London youth, and is used in the same way that slang words like “bro,” “bruh,” “cuz,” “fam,” and “boi” are used. The spelling and pronunciation stem from a Cockney or Londoner affectation in which many “th” sounds are replaced with “v” or “f” sounds. 

Sources:

  1. https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/08/bro-slang-origins-history-and-overuse-suggests-the-term-may-not-last.html
  2. https://etymologeek.com/eng/bruv
  3. https://www.businessinsider.com/british-slang-that-will-confuse-anybody-who-didnt-grow-up-in-the-uk-2017-11#innit-45
  4. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Bruv
  5. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/bruv
  6. https://www.cyberdefinitions.com/definitions/BRUV.html
  7. https://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/another-word-for/bruv.html