Define the Word Friend

What does the word friend mean to you? How many friends do you have using this personal definition?

I think the word friend is so interesting. It's used so frequently but there is no shared definition. And IMO, it's used way too loose and fast. For example, some people call coworkers friends after they've spoken to them at most two times at work functions. Another example is if you meet someone a few times at non-work social settings but never hang out separately or intentionally. Some call these people friends. The qualifications around these specific situations are extremely low and probably not representative of most people's standards. But it feels like in general the bar on average for most people to call others friends is pretty low. Maybe my standards are high or maybe there isn't a better in-between word other than acquaintance. Maybe it's a bit of both. My personal definition/qualification:

1) Someone you can trust
2) Person who you can call to talk to about personal matters
3) An individual who you have a shared experience or bond with
4) A person who you enjoy being around
5) Someone who is reliable
6)Lastly, an individual who is loyal

If you use these qualifications, you in fact can't have hundreds of friends like some inadvertently imply when they call nearly everyone they are on good terms with friends. You can be friendly with a hundreds of people and have good relationships but can't be friends with that many individuals. There is a factor of time and conflicts of interests, especially with regard to trust and loyalty.


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Comments (9)

Most Helpful
May 15, 2022 - 3:49pm
DrApeman, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Definition can get tricky, because I genuinely don't believe in quantifying or labelling something so inherently emotional in nature. However, I would speak to some aspects or characteristics I tend to find my friends to have:

- They are kind and friendly people (cannot stand people with a bad or needlessly confrontational or boastful attitude)

- They are people I always am happy to see, have dinner with, or talk to any time, even if in a hurry or in a bad mood, and would help out if asked in a heartbeat.

- They are people I know I can count on to talk to about my problems or can rely on for help, and vice versa they know they can count on me.

I have a fair few of those, mostly because I moved so much in my life (so had to meet new people every time), so how many do I have? Well:

- 5 in my home town (one of which is my best friend)

- 1 from my first master (now lives in Germany)

- 5 from my second master (we're a group of friends, and 9 years later we are still all pretty close, that group chat hasn't died yet and we meet fairly often)

- 2 from my post-master, and pre-phd, job (both still live in the UK)

- 9 from when I did my PhD (2 have moved back to their home countries, the other 7 I believe are all still there)

So, total that'd be 22. I spend most of my time between my home town, the UK, and Germany as a result, to visit as many as I can, when I can. Makes for very packed long weekends. I'll be moving back to the UK soon, so that'll simplify things. In addition to that, I have a bunch of people I would consider (maybe not close friends), but certainly more than acquaintances: friends from high school I see every now and then back home and some online friends I've known for 5 to 20 years that I still speak to regularly and know a lot about (have actually met a few IRL and they are very cool).

May 15, 2022 - 9:45pm
Sequoia, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think of friends as 3 circles: best friends / good friends / casual friends.

Best Friends -- These are guys that are there for you during tough times. Your friendships may have been tested at times but has come out strong. They're people you can really pour your soul to. I have 2 best friends and 2 who are almost-best friends. You chat / keep in touch often. One of my best friends I talk to multiple times a week, the other every 3 weeks or so. First one is a college roommate, other one is a childhood friend I've known since I was 3 (and my oldest friend). 

Good Friends -- These are friends you enjoy being around and spend lots of time with. You feel a close connection - though not to the same extent as best friends - and try to prioritize time for them. Have about ~10 that fit into this camp. One step lower than best friends but are important people who you work to keep in touch with. You still keep in touch with these guys though not to the same extent as your best friends.

Casual Friends - This is where most friends will end up falling into. You like each other's company but probably wouldn't mind too much if they moved cities. You probably would not think of them too much if you were not geographically proximate or bother really keeping in touch (maybe once a year reach out or you reach out if you're in the same city).

I've been blessed to be able to have several friends move from the casual friend camp to the good friend camp as soon as I started making more of an effort. On flip side, 2 of the best friends have moved down a tad (they're the 'almost best friends' referenced above) as life has moved us in separate ways in some ways. Casual friends have increased substantially in past few years & are people to spend time with but I don't know that many of those will upgrade into the inner circles (good / best friends) -- though you never know. The friends that moved from casual to good I wouldn't have thought 2yrs ago would have done so. You never know so you might as well keep the connection open as it could lead to a beautiful friendship later down the line. 

If it was up to me, I'd never have any casual friends -- they'd all be moved to the good friends camp at very least. Hard part is finding such quality people and also having them in geographical proximity (esp as people move around a ton in their 20s). But then again I'm more introverted and really value close, genuine connection with a small group of people vs. having metric tons of friends with loose ties. Different strokes 

May 16, 2022 - 8:47pm
mooyi, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I must be one of those people you say have a low bar haha because I do consider a lot of coworkers friends. Basically if I talk to them somewhat regularly and like them, that qualifies them as a friend to me. Another litmus test would be if I would stay in touch with the person even after they leave my group/firm.

There's a difference between friends and close friends. Of the first, I couldn't count how many I had. Of the second, I'd count probably around ten. The definition of the second for me being people who if they were to show up on your doorstep and say they wanna crash/sleepover, you would a) be ok with that, and b) not think of it as an obligation/ chore but rather really enjoy it.

May 17, 2022 - 9:01am
thebrofessor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I don't have a definition, but I have heuristics for best friends

would they offer to help me move?

would they drop what they're doing to help me during a time of crisis (death, divorce, health scare)?

do I self censor around them beyond normal politeness/manners?

would they be a groomsman at my wedding or a pallbearer at my funeral?

by that definition, I'd say I have maybe 5 very very very close friends ("best" implies there's one above all else, but I can't say I just have one), and beyond that I have buddies, people I'd party with, go on a beach trip with, play in rec softball with, go to dinner/concerts with, etc.

May 17, 2022 - 1:34pm
Dick Steele, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I have probably 3 close/best friends. I've known them since at least middle school and we've all kept in touch and see each other often. Beyond that, I have many other friends but they aren't as close. Pretty much my definition of friend is the same as yours, I don't call people I talk to occasionally as friends.

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May 17, 2022 - 6:29pm
Ayther, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thought provoking question. To me, a friend is someone you like and want to spend time with, and the feeling is reciprocal. 

That is a friend. You can have better friends, more helpful friends, more distant friends, etc. Know which is which or you may be disappointed if your expectations are too high. 

May 17, 2022 - 9:43pm
BobTheBaker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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