The English language often borrows different words and concepts for love and loving relationships from the Greek language. One of these concepts, "fraternal love," is something you might hear often without understanding its historical use and the specific subtleties of the definition.
Definition And Common Usage
In its most basic sense, "fraternal" translates as "brotherly." The word can also refer to siblings in a gender-neutral sense, which is why the term "fraternal twins" refers to male and female twins alike. The concept of fraternal love is associated with brotherhood and, generally, masculinity and traditional male gender roles. It's also the root of the word "fraternizing," which refers to the act of socializing in a brotherly, affectionate manner with someone.
Fraternal vs. Platonic
You may be familiar with the idea of platonic love, which is a form of love that is not romantic, but is based on a close, personal relationship. Fraternal love is similar to platonic love in that it is not romantic, but fraternal love is a more specific concept. With fraternal love, the relationship is assumed to be not only platonic, but familial, and based upon traditionally male roles and bonding activities. This may include combat or highly competitive situations, such as sports, or you may feel fraternal love toward someone you know you could count on to fight by your side if you need it.
There are a number of American and European traditions that call themselves "fraternal" or a "fraternity" as a means of displaying their devotion to the idea of fostering brotherly love for one another along with promoting social responsibility. This tradition dates back to organizations in ancient Greece and now includes modern-day college fraternities and trade guilds, which may call themselves "brotherhoods" rather than using the term "fraternal."
Relationships and Gender
You may use this label to describe a female friend, but it's most definition-appropriate if you have a relationship with her based on more traditionally masculine bonding experiences. Typically, however, the term "fraternal love" will be used to describe a male companion, where a female companion would be referred to in terms of "platonic love" or "sisterly love." You could also use the corresponding Greek word "sororal" to describe a sibling-like relationship with a woman, but "sororal love" is not a term that's widely used.