I overheard a mother correct her child who said something to the effect of

There was a new kid in my class today and I friended him.

The mother said befriended and I was inclined to mentally agree (given the kid was maybe six or seven, it's unlikely that he was referring to social networking).

However, with a little Googling, I discovered an article from The Atlantic which suggests that 'Friend,' as a Verb, Is 800 Years Old.

  • "Make no purses, for to friend yourself therewith." -- the Guide for Anchoresses, early 13th century
  • "And after soon friended were the King David of Scotland and Stephen, king then of England." -- Andrew of Wyntoun, Chronicles, c. 1425

This answer regarding the be prefix offers:

The general form is:

   be + [quality]

and the corresponding meaning is:

 to turn into + [quality].

So, I guess my question, then, is what is the difference between the verbs to friend and to befriend? Was the kid right?

  • The boy befriended the new kid. The two children were then friended. (?)
    – Doc
    Jan 27, 2014 at 18:38
  • I immediately imagine both children on Facebook, where friending is indeed the correct verb...
    – Patrick M
    Sep 12, 2014 at 20:33
  • @PatrickM disheartening, but true. Sep 13, 2014 at 15:58
  • Going back somewhat more than a century -- poem LXII of A.E. Housman's "A Shropshire Lad" is pretty famous -- it's the one that begins with "Terence, this is stupid stuff" and has the oft-quoted couplet "And malt does more than Milton can/To justify God's ways to man". At one point, the poet promises that if you should become as miserable as he is, "And I will friend you, if I may/In the dark and cloudy day." I can't recommend this splendid poem enough! Dec 22, 2017 at 1:52

1 Answer 1


Friend as a verb is very old, but its use is now limited to adding someone to a list of social network contacts. Befriend doesn’t necessarily mean ‘make a friend of’. It is typically used when a person offers support to someone in difficulties, rather like the good Samaritan.

If you’re describing the establishment of a close, but not sexual or romantic, relationship, you have to say that two people are, or have become, friends.

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