Printable Version
Pronunciation: ên-frind Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. (1659) To quit a friendship, to stop being friends with someone. 2. (2009) To remove someone from the list of people with whom you communicate on an Internet social network, such as FaceBook.

Notes: The English word friend has endured considerable torture over its life. In addition to being blended with enemy to produce frenemy, friend has long been prefixed with un- "not, undo". In 2005, however, its meaning was expanded to include anyone we talk to in a social network. To add someone to our list of approved chat companions came to be friending, as distinct from befriending "making someone a true friend". To unfriend someone is to stop being a friend in either sense. Unfriended has meant simply "without friends" since 1513.

In Play: I suppose today's word is a threat more than anything else: "If you don't go to the prom with me I'll unfriend you from my FaceBook account!" Do keep in mind, however, that this is not a new word and its more traditional meaning is still available: "While Leland was not kicked off the team for mooning the coach during practice, he was unfriended by most of the team and shunned by all the cheerleaders."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a real English word, unborrowed, unfilched, and uncopied. It started out as Old English freond "beloved", closely related to freo "free". The original Proto-Indo-European root was probably close to Sanskrit priya "dear, beloved", for we find prijatel' "friend" in Russian and similar words in other Slavic languages. The connection with the word free among the Germanic languages has long puzzled etymologists. The best guess so far is that during the Old English period, when being born free rather than enslaved was critical, this word was associated with people of your own bloodline and hence especially loved. Evidence of this is seen in common phrases like freobroðor "one's own free (born) brother and freodohtor "one's own free (born) daughter". (Let us now pay special gratitude to Christ Stewart of South Africa for suggesting today's Good Word, lest he unfriend us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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