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mate /meɪt/ 

(countable noun) (informal) Usage note: This term is used by many speakers.

A friend.

Example: They have been friends since they were 12, meeting at St Philip's. Says Aldridge: "Although this is our first race together we've been mates for a long time."  (http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/1324.html)   

2 ‘Mate’ can also be used when you are talking to someone, even if you don’t know them.

Example: The experts sighed and said, 'Mate, it doesn't work like that.'   (http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2008/2272369.htm)  

3 ‘Mate’ can sometimes establish the fact that you are talking to someone in a friendly way, even if you are unhappy with them. Alternatively, it can be used when someone is feeling slightly hostile. It depends on the speaker’s tone of voice.

Example: Come on mate, you clearly don’t take a shine to her [= don’t like her] as a performer and that’s your right, it’s a subjective thing, but to say she proves anyone can act is arrogant nonsense. (http://blogs.news.com.au/news/splat/index.php/news/comments/nicole_kidman)

4 'Mate' can also be used as an exclamation if you are frustrated.

Example: I had to wait for two hours. Mate! (no online source)

5 Australia also has a concept of ‘mateship’, referring to friends who help each other, especially in difficult situations.

Example: The courage, sacrifice, mateship and endurance shown by our soldiers on the Kokoda Trail [in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War] has become a strong part of our culture and lifestyle. (http://www.kokodaspirit.com/KokodaInfo/MediaArchives-427/AJourneyThroughTime-390/)
 

Two mates having a chat (an informal conversation)

(photo by kalimevole)