I understand that 'Unfriend' is not a valid English word. But, is there an equivalent word for the act of 'Unfriending' someone, like on Facebook?

'Not being on talking terms' is something a friend suggested. I am looking for one word here.

from @Hugo :
Because social media "friends" are sometimes just acquaintances and not necessarily actual friends (and sometimes not even acquaintances), a good answer will also apply to this weaker relationship.

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    This isn't a single word, but friends can have a falling-out. This is the phrase I've most often heard. – user13141 Dec 13 '11 at 9:51
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    Because social media "friends" are sometimes just acquaintances and not necessarily actual friends (and sometimes not even acquaintances), a good answer will also apply to this weaker relationship. – Hugo Dec 13 '11 at 10:11
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    @Hugo : You make an excellent point here! Most of the 'Social media friends', in most of the cases, are a subset of weak relationships we have in life. – Abhi Dec 13 '11 at 10:31
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    I'm pretty sure that the word "Friend" doesn't exist as a verb either, except in this new social media context. As such, "Unfriend" is just as valid as "Friend", both being usages recently invented. – John Rhoades Dec 13 '11 at 14:49
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    I agree with @JohnRhoades, the verb for making friends with someone is befriend – Matt E. Эллен Dec 14 '11 at 8:30

10 Answers 10


Estrange is one possibility, and depending on circumstances alienate is another.

(Alienate doesn't seem to me to be appropriate to social media, but that aspect of the question was added after my original response.)

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    What makes you say that, DeepYellow? – Matt E. Эллен Dec 13 '11 at 9:53
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    @MattЭллен: It is the answer to the question. – Codie CodeMonkey Dec 13 '11 at 9:58
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    But why? What is it about the words estrange and alienate that makes them good answers to this question? – Matt E. Эллен Dec 13 '11 at 10:00
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    I'm not asking for me, DeepYellow. I agree with you. I'm asking for people who don't know what the words mean or how to use them. – Matt E. Эллен Dec 13 '11 at 10:06
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    The expectation (which @MattЭллен is trying to get you to take care of) is that you would do some minimal explanation, rather than just parrot some words. But others did your work for you in editing your answer. – Mitch Dec 13 '11 at 16:24

Unfriend is most certainly a word. The OED has this citation from 1659:

I Hope, Sir, that we are not mutually Un-friended by this Difference which hath happened betwixt us.

There is also an entry for unfriend as a noun, meaning, unsurprisingly, ‘one who is not a friend’.

There can be no denying that unfriend is a word even in the absence of any such historical evidence. Anyone who uses Facebook knows exactly what it means, and I see no reason for a substitute.

We also have, incidentally, that useful word uninvite, first found in Pepys's Diary in 1665.

  • Does anyone else think of "unperson" when reading this? :) – Stefano Palazzo Dec 21 '11 at 7:34

While "unfriend" it not in and of itself a valid English word, it is, in most contexts, understood to be a construction of "un–" and "friend".

Using "un–" as a negation is a quite common idiom, ("unfriendly", "unstable") and there is an argument to be had that it is valid in the general case for words with no specific antithetical form.


An alternative in the same genre is "defriend", which is also not a valid English word, but can be constructed using a similar mechanism, with "de–" rather than "un–", as in "destabilize", "devalue".

Both alternatives are easily understood and pithy, but neither is an actual English word.

  • So theoretically it is a valid construct, just not in the dictionary. – Abhi Dec 13 '11 at 10:10
  • Assuming that "un–" indicates a negation, and that it can be attached in a general fashion, it's a valid construct. – Williham Totland Dec 13 '11 at 10:13
  • Yes. Since on facebook friend is a verb meaning to add someone to your list of friends, taking that person off that list is to undo that action, so unfriend. Not sure what, if anything, distinguishes -de from -be, but in cases where friending on facebook would be equivalent to befriending, it would make for the pair befriend-defriend, which, in my simplicity I like because both syllables rhyme. – sarah Dec 14 '11 at 5:24
  • Of course, friend is also a noun on facebook. – sarah Dec 14 '11 at 5:31

Well as a word understood by the majority of English speakers "Unfriend" meets the criteria for an English word!.

The nearest and most precise equivalent in standard English would be "Cut". As used in 18th/19th century English novels. Meaning to either ignore an acquaintances approach at a social occasion, or, to pretend not to recognize them.

  • Thanks James. Could you use that 'cut' in a sentence for us? – Abhi Dec 13 '11 at 10:27
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    @Abhi: "That dreadful Smith came up to me and said "Hi, how's it hanging?" I don't like that sort of language, so I cut him dead." Blanked is a modern equivalent. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Dec 13 '11 at 10:31
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    @TimLymington: The more generic cut [someone] can be done without ever meeting them again - it's rather dated, but it normally means exclude from your social circle. To cut [someone] dead is usually something done in the other person's presence - either by ostentatiously ignoring them, or by making a particularly cutting remark. – FumbleFingers Dec 13 '11 at 16:13
  • @Fumble: I think cutting remarks are different, but thanks for the distinction between cut and cut dead. Bit off-topic now, I feel. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Dec 13 '11 at 16:43
  • @TimLymington: Well, I upvoted James because I think plain "cut" is the nearest equivalent to "unfriend" outside of the Facebook context. The only problem, as he admits, is that it's effectively archaic - to cut dead, and make cutting remarks are still current, but neither of these really have the meaning we're looking for. – FumbleFingers Dec 13 '11 at 16:55

Your assumption, that unfriend itself is a modern construction and not yet a word, is not borne out by the evidence. The OED has a dozen citations, ranging from Layamon's 13th century 'Brut' to Walter Scott, for the word as meaning "enemy" or something similar (also, interestingly, for somebody not a member of the Society of Friends, or Quakers); several for an adjective meaning unfriendly, and one for a verb:

1659 T. Fuller Let. P. Heylyn in Appeal Injured Innoc. iii, I Hope, Sir, that we are not mutually Un-friended by this Difference which hath happened betwixt us.

It's not likely that the Facebook elves consulted this before setting up their interface, I admit: but why not revive unfriend itself?

  • You got there just before me. – Barrie England Dec 13 '11 at 12:27

I get the idea that it's a web application you need this answer for, so brevity is key; the action could be labelled "remove friend" or even just "remove". Since you'd likely be displaying a list of the friends, it should be fairly intuitive as to what will happen if the user clicks on the link.

  • No, I do not need it for a Web Application. The question, of course, came up from a famous web app - Facebook :) – Abhi Dec 13 '11 at 10:14

You can drop somebody from your Facebook friends list, your Google+ circles, your LinkedIn contacts, and so on.


Keep in mind that as used in social media it generally refers to removal from a list [maybe as a consequence of breaking a friendship, but maybe not] rather than breaking of a friendship. They might not have been "friends" in a real sense, as social media sites don't generally have "acquaintance lists". So I would suggest the word "delist", with enough context to know what listing is being referred to.


Couldn't one "befriend" another? Wouldn't the reverse be to "unbefriend"?


I think dissociate is appropriate. Disassociate is too. For a comparison, see http://www.grammarist.com/usage/dissociate-disassociate/

I think that the previously suggested delist is good also.

The difference is the implication as to who acted. "John and I are dissociated," does not indicate who made that be so. "John delisted me," does.

protected by coleopterist Feb 20 '13 at 18:35

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