Words in the News


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

A recent study conducted on behalf of Sainsbury’s supermarket has found that eating with friends and family, along with other factors like having enough time to do things and getting enough sleep, boosts wellbeing, while regularly eating alone is strongly associated with unhappiness. This is not a new finding, rather a confirmation that real-life friends and friendships are important.

Friend is one of the most frequent words in the language and its core meaning is, of course, very familiar. In its plural form it indicates a reciprocal relationship: if you are friends with someone they have no choice but to be friends with you. Friend has several extended meanings. You can use it when referring to someone instead of using their name, or when you don’t know it. It can be used to refer to countries or organizations that have mutually beneficial relationships. You can be a friend to an organization or group as well as to people: this usually involves giving them money, and non-profit organizations often give special privileges to those who support them in this way.

Friend has meanings in politics and the law as well: your honourable, noble, right honourable or learned friend may in fact be your opponent or even someone you can’t stand, but professional courtesy and custom require that you refer to each other in this way. And of course friend is a verb as well as a noun. Those who rail against this verbing are perhaps unaware that it dates back to the 15th century and possibly even earlier.

As you would expect, friend appears in many compounds and in a number of fixed phrases, from friends with benefits to those in high places to just (good) friends, which can mean more that it seems to on the surface.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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