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The “Shorter Oxford Dictionary” says of “comrade” that it is from the French camerade and Spanish camarada, both derived from the Latin camera = “chamber”.

Originally it referred to “a person who shares the same room or tent, as in a fellow-soldier (a “comrade-in-arms”) hence an associate in friendship, occupation or fortune; an equal with whom one is on familiar terms.”

  • It is in this sense – the fellow-traveller (another term that has suffered from the same unwelcome connotation) - that Shakespeare used it. In Act 1 of “Hamlet” he has Polonius giving fatherly words of advice to the departing Laertes. Among the well-known gems such as “Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar”, “Give every man thine ear but few thy voice”, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” and “…to thy own self be true.” is the instruction to hold your trusted friends close “with hoops of steel” but not to “dull thy palm with entertainment of each new-hatch'd, unfledg'd comrade.”

The term appears in John Milton, in Walt Whitman; Herman Melville used it. Robert Louis Stevenson, in his “Songs of Travel”, published posthumously, wrote:

Teacher, tender, comrade, wife,
A fellow-farer true through life.

It is in the above context that the word has its true worth.