Nakama is a Japanese word that translates to friend, comrade, or maybe even crewmate in English.
The literal definition of the word is “a member of a group.”
In some anime and manga fandoms, such as the popular shounen manga series One Piece, the term has earned a symbolic importance among English-speaking fans.
“Nakama” is known to be such an significant term, since it refers to someone who is closer or as close as a family member.
The word itself is not even a special term. In most dictionaries, the meaning of “nakama” refers to a casual relationship.
On the other hand, the use in One Piece correlates more to the meaning given in the Iwanami Japanese Language Dictionary, where it has been defined as “those whose hearts are united”.
It all started when “nakama” was first untranslated by a fansub group known as Kaizoku Fansbubs.
Because of that, viewers and fans began to think the word has more to it than there is, even though Japanese language doesn’t suggest that the word has any special meanings.
Spread and Usage
The significance and the popularity that the word gained is thanks to the loyal fandom of the series One Piece.
There are other fandoms too that emphasize the term “nakama”, such as D.Gray-Man and Fairytale.
On Urban Dictionary “nakama” was defined as early as in 2004 by the user Alexi, who defined the term as “Nakama means best friend, or something to that extent.“
- Fanlore – Nakama