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So, IIRC "девушка" can mean both "girl" (of any age) or "girlfriend" (I'm not entirely sure of this so feel free to call me out), but what about 'подруга'? Can I safely replace 'девушка' with 'подруга'? Which of these should I use if I'm talking about a coworker of mine?

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Подруга is a feminine of "a friend", друг and can mean, depending on context, both: either just a friend or a girlfriend (though this is figurative and obsolete).

Девушка is a girl from the age of puberty to the womanhood. The other meaning is girlfriend indeed but keep in ming that this can not be used to talk about dating someone who is in her, say, forties (which can be easily done in English) - this will sound slightly off.

Девочка is just a child girl. Sometimes woman recognize themselves as девочки ("ну мы же девочки, нам можно плакать") but this is nothing but a figure of speech. The other meaning would be someone close to english babe ("моя хорошая девочка").

These words have different meaning and while they are related, they are by no means interchangeable.

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  • Can I use Девушка for "girlfiend"?
    – Trey
    Nov 4 '17 at 15:12
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    @Trey it can indeed so I've updated the answer.
    – shabunc
    Nov 4 '17 at 15:16
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    @Wilson "Подруга" nowadays is mostly used among females as their equivalent of "друг" ("friend"). Often, when a man calls a woman "подруга", it is to make it clear that there is no romantic relationship between the two: "just friends" (as we know, men and women can't be "just friends", but whatever, maybe somewhat closer than a mere colleague/acquaintance). Yet on the other hand, the word can be used as "girlfriend", not that common, but not exactly obsolete, either.
    – Headcrab
    Nov 6 '17 at 3:24
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    "Девушка" with possessive pronoun ("Моя девушка", "его девушка") means girlfriend ("My girlfriend", "his girlfriend"). "Девушка" without possessive pronoun is just "Girl".
    – Alexander
    Nov 6 '17 at 18:03
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    There's also подружка
    – alamar
    Nov 7 '17 at 7:44
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As a native Russian speaker, I wanted to drop a couple of comments...

Девушка means "girlfriend" if and only if it comes with a possessive (pro)noun, for example: "моя девушка", "Васина девушка", "Девушка брата".

Regarding the obsolescence of подруга with the semantics of "girlfriend", I would rather disagree. A wise and cautious man keeps the word in his vocabulary. He would use it when he is not yet comfortable calling her "моя девушка". She will be somewhat unhappy to hear you call her "подруга", but may actually respect you more. That basically builds another barrier on her way to your resources.

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  • Downvote for sexism in the last paragraph.
    – Neith
    Apr 26 '20 at 16:45
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"Which of these should I use if I'm talking about a coworker of mine?"

This part of the original question was left unanswered. A female coworker is called "сотрудница", or you can say "девушка с моей работы" for a young lady, and "женщина с моей работы" for an older one.

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    A female coworker is called "коллега", no one calls their coworkers "сотрудница", it's a word used by management. However, good point, we all indeed forgot to cover this part of the question. Welcome to the Russian SE )
    – shabunc
    Jul 15 at 7:19

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