What is the English word for somebody who is not your friend, but you’ve know them even for years. For example, this might be a neighbor or somebody from school whom you see often enough but whom but only say hi to in passing, with everybody continuing on their way.

The relation between you and this person is neutral. I mean you can have a small talk about the weather and such, like while waiting at the bus stop or something like that, but that’s all.

I’m sure everybody has had at least a couple of similar relationships in their life.

The closest I have come up with is “we know each other”, but I would like to know whether there exists some one-word term for this instead of needing to resort to four words to describe the relationship.

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    John Wayne used the term pilgrim. – user40185 Mar 24 '13 at 14:25

Certainly acquaintance would be my own choice, but perhaps you found something remiss with it.

You might further qualify it by saying something like casual acquaintance, incidental acquaintance, nodding acquaintance, or long-time acquaintance.

Of those, I rather like nodding acquaintance, since it implies that this is someone whom you would nod to in passing, but not pause and chatter at.

  • Is it used in standard conversations or in interviews? – Derfder Mar 24 '13 at 14:32
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    @Derfder Both. You might further qualify it by saying something like casual acquaintance or long-time acquaintance. – tchrist Mar 24 '13 at 14:34
  • I don't think there is 'a word'.'Close acquaintance' is a collocation, but is only used in the abstract sense. As tchrist says, 'long-time acquaintance' is acceptable if accurate. For someone you've bumped into every day for say two months, Hellion's rephrase involving 'well acquainted' seems best. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 24 '13 at 15:56
  • In a comedy sketch a long time ago, Rowan Atkinson plays a politician, who describes a recently-deceased rival as a "close personal acquaintance" since he cannot bring himself to refer to the other as a friend, but wants to sound like he knew him well. – AdamV May 21 '14 at 12:49

The word is acquaintance.

2 a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend:
a wide circle of friends and acquaintances


  • How would you use it in a sentence? E.g. "Yes, we know each other for some time." Could it be: "Yes, we are acquaintances for some time." ? – Derfder Mar 24 '13 at 14:32
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    You would say something like "Yes, I am well acquainted with him" or "yes, we are acquainted" or "He's an acquaintance of mine." – Hellion Mar 24 '13 at 14:35
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    @Derfder You can’t say “are . . . for some time”: that’s ungrammatical in English. It must be “have been . . . for some time” instead. Similarly with “know . . . for sometime”, which must be “have known . . . for some time”. – tchrist Mar 24 '13 at 14:36

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