Does a word (or short phrase) exist to represent an enemy becoming an ally?

  • 4
    One could probably make frenemy work for this.
    – jxh
    May 14 '15 at 17:48
  • 2
    How about defection?
    – user85526
    May 14 '15 at 18:44
  • 3
    If you accept TV Tropes as a source, there's the Heel-Face Turn
    – Nefrubyr
    May 15 '15 at 10:36
  • Are you talking about people or nations here? Most of the answers seem to be about people who are enemies of you becoming your friends or allies, but your question may just as well be asking about, for example, the relationship between the US and Russia: during the Cold War they were enemies, now they’re allies (sort of). May 15 '15 at 14:51
  • convenient ....
    – Joshua
    May 15 '15 at 16:44

10 Answers 10




(Especially in international affairs) an establishment or resumption of harmonious relations:

The entry from etymonline.com:

"establishment of cordial relations," 1809, from French rapprochement "reunion, reconciliation," literally "a bringing near," from rapprocher "bring near," from re- "back, again" (see re-) + aprochier (see approach (v.)).

The specific purpose and extent of the approach to harmony is not specified in the word. At the end of every primary election campaign in the USA, the opponents develop some level of rapprochement to work together against the larger political opponent. After every successive revolution for independence, Great Britain has revealed its international savvy in rapprochement with its former colonies. During WW II, Germany, Italy and Japan overlooked their ancient hostilities and current ideological differences to establish an axis of world domination, while the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain formed The Grand Alliance in similar rapprochements.

  • Upvote, but doesn't this imply resumption more than establishment?
    – Tushar Raj
    May 14 '15 at 17:29
  • 1
    It comes from approach again, the assumption is that the previous "approach" led to enmity, but the conflict has been settled.
    – ScotM
    May 14 '15 at 17:33
  • That's what I thought. Anyway, your answer is closer to the requirement than mine. Upvote stands.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 14 '15 at 17:34


an act of reconciling, as when former enemies agree to an amicable truce.



Adoption results in a child becoming a son and heir, redemption results in a slave becoming a servant and reconciliation results in an enemy becoming a friend.

The English Connection: The Puritan Roots of Seventh-Day Adventist Belief by Bryan W. Ball

  • I believe it means restoring friendly relations. Oxford
    – Tushar Raj
    May 14 '15 at 19:42
  • @Area51DetectiveFiction: Yes, it is another sense of the word. The word has several related senses.
    – 0..
    May 14 '15 at 19:47
  • 2
    +1 This is a much better than a barely known French loanword meaning exactly the same thing.
    – Cat
    May 15 '15 at 0:40
  • @Eric, I think both answers are valuable, because to me, rapprochement and reconciliation have very different connotations. The former brings to mind an international incident, while the latter suggests something more personal. Not sure if other people have similar connotations.
    – Vectornaut
    May 16 '15 at 1:08

Shakespeare's Strange bedfellows comes to mind. I'll admit that it's maybe not ideal here, though.

Unlikely companions or allies; often used in the phrase “politics makes strange bedfellows.”


You can also use

make common cause (with)

To cooperate, to enter into an alliance for a shared goal.



You could also use detente, though the meaning is somewhat similar to rapprochement:

noun the easing of hostility or strained relations, especially between countries


Foe turned friend would perhaps answer.

This is actually something Benjamin Franklin did, by asking an opponent for the loan of a rare book, in the nicest possible way, while using his reputation of having discerning literary tastes.

Furthermore a slightly related quote is:

“An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.” – Thomas Jefferson.
Backwards, I know

  • I'm unfamiliar with this phrase. Please provide support for this answer, as it currently stands this is little more than a comment.
    – user98990
    May 15 '15 at 20:57
  • It is actually something Benjamin Franklin did, by asking an opponent for the loan of a rare book, in the nicest possible way, while using his reputation of having discerning literary tastes. Furthermore a slightly related quote is: “An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.” – Thomas Jefferson. Backwards, I know.
    – Bookeater
    May 15 '15 at 22:07
  • but I'm trying to get you to edit into your answer some type of personal component (like that comment), supporting evidence or examples of usage, links, citation to authority---any or all of these---which would allow me to reverse my DV. :-)
    – user98990
    May 15 '15 at 22:29
  • 1
    well, if you kindly repeat in baby talk eventually I'll understand...see update... :-)
    – Bookeater
    May 16 '15 at 4:36
  • You're getting it. Those additions I suggested apply all Q&A's and will increase positive votes (if the gist of your assertions are credible) --- do links like this, [link name](URL). You might benefit from a visit to the HELP Center & by taking the EL&U TOUR. Enjoy yourself.
    – user98990
    May 16 '15 at 7:18

Turncoat is one word for it. It has a negative connotation - it implies the person cannot be trusted, as they have betrayed their original cause once already.

A person who deserts one party or cause in order to join an opposing one.

"they denounced him as a turncoat"

Defector is also a possibility, doesn't have the negative connotation, at least as strongly.

A person who has abandoned their country or cause in favour of an opposing one:

"staff interviewed escapees and defectors to the West"

Here is a Google Ngram comparing the usage of defector from the perspective of the injured party

'defect/defector/defected from'

and the perspective of the advantaged party

'defect/defector/defected to'.

  • 1
    You're answering for "ally turning into enemy"
    – Tushar Raj
    May 14 '15 at 17:29
  • 1
    @Area51DetectiveFiction No I am not, someone can defect towards or away, similarly be a turncoat favourably or unfavourably, it depends on the perspective used.
    – Sam
    May 14 '15 at 17:31
  • I don't see it that way, but maybe others will.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 14 '15 at 17:32
  • 1
    @Area51DetectiveFiction The context of defector given by the OED in my example is from the recipient's perspective.
    – Sam
    May 14 '15 at 17:37
  • 1
    @Area and Sam: Don't shoot me, but I have to make the quote: "Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason? For if it doth, none dare call it treason."
    – David Pugh
    May 14 '15 at 17:57

enemy of my enemy, as in “the enemy of my enemy, is my friend,” is a workable idiomatic phrase.

Common interests are usually what motivate such dramatic changes in status i.e., former adversaries conclude that their interests are better served by mutual cooperation than by competition, due to emerging threats or opportunities.

The enemy of my enemy is an ancient proverb which suggests that two opposing parties can or should work together against a common enemy. The earliest known expression of this concept is found in a Sanskrit treatise on statecraft dating to around the 4th century BC, while the first recorded use of the current English version came in 1884. Some suggest that the proverb is of Arabic origin. see, Wikipedia

  • 1
    So the corollary is "the frenemy of my frenemy is my frenemy".
    – jxh
    May 15 '15 at 2:29
  • Keep your frenemies close.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 15 '15 at 11:27

You could say the person in question had a "change of heart".

if someone has a change of heart, they change their opinion or the way they feel about something



The wrestling phrase 'Heel-Face turn' comes to mind.



The enemy has capitulated and surrendered under agreed terms.

  • 1
    An enemy can become an ally without surrendering.
    – Drew
    May 16 '15 at 3:07

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