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
If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in reading about the history of the word hello, dude, paddywhack, rooster, or jaywalking! You’ll ROTFL!
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