'Friend' : The History of a Word

ARE YOU A WORD GEEK? Then you'll like this. 

When you call someone ‘friend’, what are you actually saying? 

We go back over 1,000 years to Old-English to find the root of ‘friend’. The word ‘Freon’ meant both ‘to love’ and ‘to set free’. That is why the English words ‘free’ and ‘friend’ are similar. They come from the same idea. To befriend someone was to add to their liberation. Are you that type of friend? Am I? In addition, this root is closely linked with the concept of ‘peace’. Old English and Old Germanic were closely linked and today the German word ‘frieden’ means ‘man of peace’. Am I seeking the peace and well-being of my friends?

The word ‘friend’ (amigo, amie) in the Romance languages is equally revealing. In Latin the word friend (amicus) may come from the Latin word for love (amor). Simple? Yes. But others have suggested a different etymology. Some language experts say that ‘amicus’ comes from the phrase ‘guardian’s of the soul’ (animi custos). And a true friend should be your soul’s guardian. He or she guards your secrets and tells you the truth - in love - when you’re being a moron. I need soul guardians; I need to be one.


We live in an age where the word ‘friend’ has been cheapened. But that does not mean we need to be cheap friends. Proverbs – in the Bible – says ‘A friend loves at all times.’ May it be our prayer to find such friends and to be such friends.

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