Here is a quote from the "Lois & Clark" series:

A: Who are you?
B [a guy]: I'm a friend of her ["her" is another female character whom B is looking for].
A: A boyfriend, a "friend" friend or just a friend?

Do you have any idea what "a 'friend' friend" is supposed to mean? Is that ironical or something?

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  • BTW: you have to say "I'm a friend of hers". No, it's not logical, but that's the way it is. It's the same with all personal pronouns: "A friend of mine" etc. – TonyK Jul 20 '16 at 12:25
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    @TonyK It is logical, you are saying that you belong to her, as a friend - possessive. I could distinguish between two cases: 1) I think of a person as my friend, 2) they think of me as their friend. People usually do not think about this, assuming it is always both and equal. It is not. I only get to declare my half of it, but I can report on their half. Less confusing to speak only for yourself, but someone who knows them and not you probably doesn't give a fig what you think, only what the other person thinks, thus: "I am a friend of hers". This is value, rather than feeling. – user126158 Jul 20 '16 at 13:48
  • @nocomprende: I think you missed my point: it's hers, not her, although "of her" might seem more logical than "of hers". – TonyK Jul 20 '16 at 14:35
  • @TonyK "I was agreeing with you." 'Hers' is possessive, it is logical and appropriate, I explained why your point was correct. I just wanted to add that her perspective is not the only one in play, so that is why we must distinguish between "friend of hers" and "friend of mine". I might have no standing with the person discussing with, but 'she' does. It is the difference between "The bank has me listed as a customer" and, "I want to withdraw some money". #2 is vacuous. – user126158 Jul 20 '16 at 15:37

It sounds as if it means a real friend, rather than just an acquaintance.

  • I don't think so. It should be some damn idiom, so to speak. – user53662 Oct 8 '13 at 9:56
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    @user53662 I can't think of anything else it could mean. This answer makes sense. – Matt E. Эллен Oct 8 '13 at 10:00
  • @user53662 Why "don't [you] think so"? – TrevorD Oct 8 '13 at 11:17
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    I find the quotation baffling not because of the first two elements ("a boyfriend" and "a 'friend' friend") but because of the inclusion of the third ("just a friend"). If all parts of the sentence are meaningful, then there must be some distinction between "a 'friend' friend" and "just a friend"; and if "a 'friend' friend" means "a real friend," then there must be some distinction between "a real friend" and "just a friend." But the implicit conclusion in this answer that "just a friend" is equivalent to "just an acquaintance" doesn't seem obviously correct to me. – Sven Yargs Jul 20 '16 at 17:14
  • @SvenYargs: I believe that the contrast is between a "friend" of the opposite sex and a boyfriend/girlfriend. – Tom Au Jul 24 '16 at 13:53

I think it means someone who you refer to as "a friend", but who is really something more. Someone you don't openly say is your intimate partner, for whatever reason, but actually is.

  • People do not always wish to disclose or discuss their intimate relationships, especially with potentially antagonistic or overprotective others. It is really nobody else's business, but the title question is an attempt to make it your business. This is usually called "Jealousy", and has no place in adult relationships. – user126158 Jul 20 '16 at 13:53

I believe, ""friend,friend"", is used here to describe a non-exclusive lover, or, "friend-with-benefits". Each item is listed and is different from the others.

Knowing the intonation and/or stressing would help quite a bit.

  • This answer was automatically flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. For an introduction to the site, take the Tour. For help writing a good answer, see How to Answer. – MetaEd Jul 20 '16 at 17:10
  • Yes, links and more explanation really help. – nelomad Jul 21 '16 at 22:59

It depends on the context, but from the brief segment you give, I would surmise that a "'friend' friend" is one who he is intimate with, which is to say a "friend with benefits" friend."

However, Barrie may also be right that this means a really close friend. It depends on the context.

The doubling of the word friend is certainly used to mean that it is a special type of friend, different than a regular friend.

  • The quote already included "Boyfriend" as a category being asked about, so it does get murky exactly what its being meant. Which is perhaps, the point. – user126158 Jul 20 '16 at 13:55
  • @nocomprende: I believe that it refers to a more subtle point called "friendzoning." – Tom Au Jul 24 '16 at 14:10
  • Definitely FWB if BF is an alternative given – user0721090601 Jul 26 '16 at 0:48

The usage of "friend" friend and friend is quite simple.

When the question is posed as such, a friend is "just a friend" (a platonic relationship). When someone is a "friend" friend (commonly said with extra emphasis on the first word and often with quotation fingers), the implication is that there is something more going on. While it can sometimes be interpreted to mean a budding relation (amorous, i.e. "just dating"), it more often refers to having relations (carnal, i.e. "friends with benefits") with them.

Because the quote also includes boyfriend we effectively get the following interpretation about the relationship:

  • boyfriend - amorous
  • "friend" friend - carnal
  • friend - platonic

Had the boyfriend option not been included, the "friend" friend option would be slightly ambiguous.


I understand "friend", with inverted commas (called quotation marks in US-English) as ironical, suggesting homosexuality.

If it were "a friend's friend", it would just mean that A is a friend of B, and B himself a friend of C ; so, A is a friend's friend of C, without any innuendo.

  • Homosexuality doesn't fit the context at all. Barrie's answer is right on the money. In fact we have a general question on this usage somewhere, with more examples. – RegDwigнt Oct 8 '13 at 9:52
  • -1 If A were a friend of B (as you suggest), why would A be asking B "Who are you?"? I agree that - in other contexts - "friend" might imply homosexuality, but since B is male & C is "her", it obviously doesn't mean that here! – TrevorD Oct 8 '13 at 11:16
  • @TrevorD: No, I believe this refers to "friendzoning." See my answer. – Tom Au Jul 24 '16 at 14:09

No, it's not ironical.

It refers to a close friend of the opposite sex who has been friend zoned. To "friend zone" somebody (typically of the opposite sex), is to discourage their sexual interest, and "cap" the relationship at "friends only."

The urban dictionary defines a "friend friend" as "Sort of a boyfriend/girlfriend who is not receiving benefits" (emphasis mine). This is in contrast to a real "boyfriend" or "girlfriend."

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    I would disagree strongly with UD. Amongst my friends ranging about ten years away way from me, a "friend" friend (normally said with a lengthened vowel on the first friend, and often with quotation fingers) absolutely means that there are sexual relations going on. Being friendzoned would mean they are instead "just a friend, unfortunately". In fact, I rarely see the question with BF/GF included, it's almost always friend vs. "friend" friend. – user0721090601 Jul 26 '16 at 0:34

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