So, when did friend become a verb? Actually, it’s always been a verb! The Old English word frēond is a derivative and the present participle of the verb frēogan which means “to love or set free (in the slave sense).”
As it sometimes happens with language, the culture had a falling out with the verb until recently. While many bemoan its social media context, it’s at least intriguing that friend as a verb possesses a lingual impulse to resurface like a colorful bauble in social waters.
The verb wasn’t the only friend to be lost over time. Old English had freondsped “an abundance of friends;” freondleast “a want of friends;” and freondspedig “rich in friends.” Today, though the word friendless is common enough, saying someone is friend-ful may bring a conversation to a pause.
“Friend they any, that flatter many?” — John Heywood, Proverbs and Epigrams, 1562
If friending isn’t up for re-adoption in your book, there’s always befriend and acquaint; both perfectly good words though a bit stuffy. I have to admit, the patty-cake feel of making friends or having a bestie doesn’t click with what I consider to be a complex and nuanced act of human bonding. But, I’m older.
Nevertheless, I’m going to expand my idea of friending and see if I can re-acquaint myself with an old book or take a walk down a friendly road. Unlike fickle Facebook friends who will befoe one for the smallest difference, a familiar pathway has never un-friended me and a tree still offers its shade without a password.
“There the street is narrow, and may friend our purpose well.” — Thomas Southerne, The Spartan Dame, 1721
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