What is the phrase which means to re-establish a cordial relation between two friends which used to be bitter?

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    – Drew
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 16:14
  • How close were they before, how bitter was the dispute, and how close is the new re-established friendship? This is important because there are several good answers given, and the answer to this question would help inform the choice of which one to go with.
    – Spudley
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 21:30

8 Answers 8


The term you are looking for is ​to reconcile:

  • When two people are reconciled, they become friendly again after they have argued:
    • They were finally reconciled with each other, after not speaking for nearly five years.

Cambridge dictionary

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    @RyeɃreḁd - Are you claiming that your experience leads you to a more accurate answer than Cambridge, AH, the answerer here and the people who voted on this answer? If that is what you are up against, you may want to reevaluate your certainty on the issue to something less than 100%. By the way, as a native english speaker, using reconcile in this sense seems perfectly fine to me.
    – boileau
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 10:48
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    @RyeɃreḁd You still need SOME sort of source for your knowledge. Maybe they people you've spent your life around just haven't used it outside of a romantic context. Maybe they have and you just haven't noticed/didn't realise because of your (mistaken IMHO) impression of the limit to the word's meaning. I've certainly had occasions where I thought very clearly I knew exactly what a word/expression meant and actually it turned out I was using it wrong all the time, and I'm sure most people have. No one person can be the ultimate source of English usage information! Clearly 22 people disagree.
    – Muzer
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 13:27
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    I am a native AmE speaker and I have heard and used the term reconcile many times. I have never been aware of any restriction to romantic relationships when using that word. I have, on the other hand, heard and used it for anything from general friendship to business acquaintances as well as in reference to romantic relationships. I believe this word is perfect for the OP's request. It is a fairly common word, and from my experience, perfectly suited for a variety of interpersonal relations. @RyeɃreḁd - out of curiosity, what region of the U.S. are you from?
    – gmiley
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 17:46
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    "reconcile" is used all the time, in the USA, in say a business context - it's totally normal. (You can google zillions of examples.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 21:11
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    I am a native English speaker from the US, and I rarely hear reconcile used in a romantic context. It's much more often used in the context of a family relationship (which does include marriage). "Bob and his father were estranged for years, but they finally reconciled." "Steven and Berrie were separated and considering divorce, but they reconciled for the sake of the children."
    – barbecue
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 23:24

My father, a WWII veteran, would have called it "burying the hatchet."

To bury the hatchet means:

to forget about arguments and disagreements with someone and to become friends with them again.

[Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.]

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    Hello, AI Maki. Your answer was (unfortunately) flagged automatically as low-quality for its length. Please try to cite some references as I've done in the edit. Your post seems to answer the question. Please review my edit and try to follow the format next time you answer a question. Good luck.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 18:21
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    @Rathony Nice courtesy! Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 19:32
  • As an interesting (to me at least) aside this phrase reported has its origins in Iroquois Confederacy. In pre-colonial Northern America Native Americans buried their weapons as a ceremonial symbol of peace. More reading here
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 21:10
  • @RichardKayser Wow. I blush...
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 10:08
  • Dolores O'Riordan likes this answer.
    – moonwave99
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 13:18

The phrase you are looking for is "make up"

  • to become reconciled (quarreled but later made up) to reconcile with someone; to end a disagreement (with someone).
  • to forgive someone and be friendly with them again after an argument or disagreement (from CD)

Bill and Max decided to make up. They made up with each other and are now very good friends.

  • "kiss and make up" is a common phrase (often used when you don't literally mean for them to kiss, you're just picking on them) Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 4:07
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    Not to be confused with "kiss and make out". I made that mistake once...
    – xDaizu
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 8:49
  • "Kiss and make up" is often used in a sort of joking/lighthearted context, since it's the sort of thing you'd say to children. You wouldn't say it for something really serious (I know @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft alluded to this but I just wanted to make it clear!)
    – Muzer
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 13:29

A colorful way to put it is to "rekindle the relationship".

Oxford definition for "rekindle":

Revive (something lost or lapsed): ‘he tried to rekindle their friendship’

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    That would imply a romantic relationship to me (British English) Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 11:01
  • I think this is most often used in reference to romantic relationships, probably due to its allusion to fire and the passion it represents. That suits poets and novelists just fine. But to my Californian ear it makes sense to me platonically.
    – Dave
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 16:48

How about reunite or get back together?


reunite: to come together again

Get back together means exactly what the words say.

Or how about bury the hatchet or let bygones be bygones?

bury the hatchet: to forget about arguments and disagreements with someone and to become friends with them again

let bygones be bygones: forgive someone for something he or she did in the past

Another possibility is rapproachement.


rapproachement: establishment of or state of having cordial relations

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    +1 for bury the hatchet. That said, IMHO "reunite" is not really appropriate as it does not imply a reconciliation has occurred.
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 21:06
  • @Lumberjack Thanks for the comment. To me, it means that enough of a reconciliation has occurred for the parties to reunite after who knows how significant their differences. But point taken. Commented Nov 28, 2016 at 21:39
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    I like "rapproachement", Richard, even though it has echoes of international rather that interpersonal relations.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 6:30
  • @BoldBen Funny thing in the origin language, French, it seems to mean just that.
    – ZeroPhase
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 22:25

"mend fences"

See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mend%20fences

to improve or repair a relationship that has been damaged by an argument or disagreement.

  • She mended fences with her father.
  • She and her father are trying to mend their fences.
  • After the election, he spent a lot of time mending political fences.

Other related idioms to say are "build bridges", "it is water under the bridge" or "we moved past it", "let's move past it", "let's put it behind us".

  • I was always puzzled by "mending fences". To me that is more or less literally synonymous with "building walls" which is generally indicative of a failing relationship. Having a barrier between two people. I'm not criticising, just an observation on the weirdness of English.
    – Wossname
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 11:57
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    Consider the famous poem, "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost, in which two neighbors in the spring, by common agreement, repair the walls between their fields so there is no dispute over the boundaries. poets.org/poetsorg/poem/mending-wall Also note that when a person "crosses the line" they commit a trespass. The boundaries of propriety need to be reset after such an incident. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 14:32
  • In a more agrarian society, fences are more for animals than people, and they don't just keep others out, they keep yours in. If you had broken fences, and your cows got into the neighbor's field and ate their crops, then mending said fences would certainly improve your relationship with your neighbor.
    – barbecue
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 23:20

Pick up where you left off

pick (something) up where (one) left off: To resume or start (something) again from the last point where one had previously stopped. If it's OK with you, I'd like to go out on a date and try to pick up where we left off! OK, now that the rain's stopped, let's pick this game up where we left off!


After a three-year break in our friendship, Tomás and I picked up where we left off.


To reconnect with old friends

This phrase is more about friends that had a good relationship but lost contact for a while. It's only semi-related to your question since you specifically mentioned a bitter relationship, but it answers the question in the title.

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