Is there a single English word for an activity a person does to try and get closer to someone? This someone might be:

  • Someone they get a crush on, so they're like trying to be her/his boyfriend/girlfriend.


  • Someone they want to know deeper. Like what a teacher does to her student, a mum does to her kids, a friend does to another friend.

In Indonesian we would call it: pendekatan.

In English, I can only think of:

  • trying to get closer (which is not one word)
  • approaching (which is merely translated to English)
  • flirting or seducing (which is not the kind of approaching I'm looking for)

I suppose there is a more "English" word for this. (?)

  • 1
    The best I'm coming up with is "get to know" and "spend time with", but these aren't single words. Why are you looking for a single word? Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 2:24
  • It's Too Broad. One word or a phrase, it depends on the exact context. Paedophiles, for example, are commonly said to groom their victims, whereas sycophants are more likely to cultivate their "puppetmasters". And lovers might woo or court the object of their affections. Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 3:10
  • I believe a "single word" cannot convey the same meaning for different types of relationships. The rapport between a mother and her children is different from that of a teacher with her/his class, and from that of an aspiring romantic relationship. A mother doesn't cultivate her children, and a teacher shouldn't court or woo students! However, to get close to someone, as you have already suggested, fits well in all these different situations.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 7:53
  • +1 Please clarify: you are seeking a verb or noun?
    – Jack Ryan
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 13:51
  • Tanner: I needed to write a text about that, so I needed a word. FumbleFingers and Mari Lou A: Yea, that's why I was asking for different terms for that.. I know they are different and I asked about them differently. (Sorry for not being specific about that though)
    – Safira
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 10:19

8 Answers 8


It might be a little old-fashioned but I think "courting" is probably the most appropriate choice. You might prefer (the also old-fashioned) "wooing".

  • +1. I might be a little old-fashioned but I like this. :) So this works for someone who's in love with the opposite sex? I searched for this and it doesn't fit in terms of mother-child relationships or between friends?
    – Safira
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 10:23
  • Correct. It is romantic. The other kind of love is usually considered platonic. Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 10:37

The act of undergoing such activities is called befriending:

befriend — make friends with: to be friendly to somebody, especially to somebody who has no friends and needs help

Befriend applies in each of the various situations you described. The relevant adjective to describe someone acting this way is simply, friendly:

friendly — affectionate and trusting: characteristic of or suitable to a relationship between friends

And there are various idioms and sayings that describe the act or intention itself:

making friends — form a friendship, foster cordial feelings, as in I hope Brian will soon make friends at school , or She's done a good job of making friends with influential reporters. [c. 1600]

warm up to — to become more fervent and earnest toward someone, something, or a group

It is worth noting that someone trying to befriend another person does not imply the intent is reciprocated:

Ugh, John keeps trying to befriend me.

  • +1. I suppose this only works for relationships between mothers and kids, between friends, or something like that? This won't suit the relationship between lovers will it?
    – Safira
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 10:21
  • @Safira: It can but more context would be needed. "Befriending" is pretty generic.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 15:13

There is one more word you might want to consider:

ingratiate (v.t.): to establish (oneself) in the favor or good graces of others, esp. by deliberate effort: to ingratiate oneself with the boss.

Synonyms include: curry favor with, cultivate, win over, get in good with; toady to, grovel to, fawn over, kowtow to, play up to, pander to, flatter, court, wheedle.

In it's strictest sense, it is to seek or buildup favor in another, and can be used this way. However, it has come to have a negative connotation of dishonesty, or a way to climb up a social ladder.

  • +1. Does this work for all kinds of relationships between siblings, mother-child, friends, and lovers?
    – Safira
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 10:24
  • It does, in its purest sense, yes. We all do it, whether or not we want to admit. We all want to be in each others' good graces. Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 17:32

Perhaps cultivate

to give special attention to: to cultivate a friendship, to cultivate a hobby

It might be used in a phrase, such as cultivate a relationship with ...

  • In my opinion, your suggestion is the best of those made here: the verb is neutral in tone, and the fact that one must specify exactly what is being cultivated makes it possible to adapt descriptions that are based on it to a wide variety of contexts.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 4:10

Fraternize means to associate in with others in a congenial way. (Literally means to make like a brother.)

Consort means to associate or keep company with.

Both of these words often are used when describing an improper relationship (e.g., fraternize with the enemy), but they do not have to mean that.

For words that are more associated with flirting and sexual attraction, consider

Chase, meaning to follow or devote one's attention to with the hope of attracting, winning, gaining, etc.: He chased her for three years before she consented to marry him.

Pursue, defined as to follow persistently or seek to become acquainted with.


The closest English word that covers the general case as you have described is "endear".


Quality time. Although it's not an exact analog to the concept you're seeking, it's used in much the same manner. Quality time is the meaningful activities you do with someone you are trying to deepen a relationship with.

As in "Dad, I never see you, when are you going to spend some quality time with me?"

However, it's not typically used in a romantic or sexual context, where wooing as Elliot Frish mentioned, is probably a better word.

I can't think of a single English word that covers both situations.

EDIT: See Mari-Lou's note below for clarification on usage.

  • 1
    The exact phrase is "to spend quality time". You cannot say: *"He tried to quality time the girl of his dreams."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 7:50
  • Yes, you're right, I was being sloppy. Although maybe your example will become the trendy new usage! Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 15:24

I believe, you are looking for cosy.

  • 1
    The full expression is: cosy up (to someone), and it usually means you are already very friendly and/or intimate with that person.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 7:36

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