Looking for a word to describe a person who only makes friends to benefit themselves.

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  • 1
    A social climber, a leech, a user, – Jim Jun 22 '15 at 4:10
  • 6
    Like a fair weather friend. – Kris Jun 22 '15 at 6:13


a person who associates with another person or a group in a sycophantic manner or for the purpose of gaining some personal advantage.

Longman Dictionary defines it as

Someone who spends a lot of time with a rich or important person, because they hope to get some advantage for themselves: He was surrounded by a crowd of friends and hangers-on.

From Oxford Dictionaries

But he also set an undisputed world record, for the number of aides, acolytes, spongers and hangers-on that he assembled in one place at the same time.

Synonyms: follower, flunkey, toady, sycophant, parasite, leech; minion, lackey, acolyte; Informal: sponger, freeloader

  • None of the terms you suggest refers to friendship, and generally the list of synonyms are of little help since nuances and difference in meanings are not explained. – user66974 Jun 22 '15 at 11:32
  • A hanger-on is someone who pretends to be a friend, they "hang around" the rich and the famous, and are practically like "yes men". They tell the person what they want to hear. They are not friends in the conventional sense, but they are often seen together, an entourage of people. An opportunist grabs an opportunity, it is often used in the positive sense, while a hanger-on is always derogative. – Mari-Lou A Jun 22 '15 at 11:36
  • @Josh61 I carefully chose those synonyms, they all mean people who texploit someone to their own advantage. A leech can be a friend who continually sucks money, friendship, favours etc. from their friend/victim. – Mari-Lou A Jun 22 '15 at 11:40
  • I have very rarely seen opportunistic used with a positive connotation. Please see thefreedictionary.com/opportunist – user66974 Jun 22 '15 at 11:41
  • From TFD person who adapts his actions, responses, etc, to take advantage of opportunities, circumstances. Why is this negative? It doesn't necessarily have to be, as I previously mentioned, an *opportunist suggests the idea of someone "grabbing" an opportunity, seeing an open door, a chance to improve one's current job status, financial situation etc. However, I object more towards "fair weather friend" than opportunist. – Mari-Lou A Jun 22 '15 at 11:47

I think the term opportunist , though not specific to friendship, well describes the kind of person you are referring to:

  • One who takes advantage of any opportunity to achieve an end, often with no regard for principles or consequences.(AHD)

also the expression fair-weather friend can suggest the idea of a person who uses friendship just as a way to to have a personal return without real commitment for others:

  • Fig. someone who is your friend only when things are pleasant or going well for you. Bill stayed for lunch but he wouldn't help me with the yard work. He's just a fair-weather friend. A fair-weather friend isn't much help in an emergency. (AHD)
  • 1
    A fair-weather friend is not someone who exploits a "friendship" for personal gain. He or she is a "fickle" friend, there for good times (fair/good weather), but who disappears when times are hard (bad/stormy weather). – Mari-Lou A Jun 22 '15 at 11:22
  • @Mari-LouA - I think the term actually fits the context since OP refers to "person who only makes friends to benefit themselves", not persons who exploit a friendship! – user66974 Jun 22 '15 at 11:34

The term user, when applied to a friend, means someone who is using a friendship solely for personal gain.

(pejorative) An exploiter, an abusive user (a person who uses something or someone unfairly, selfishly and/or unethically).

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