Define Friend: A Good Understanding Of The Friend Definition

By Marie Miguel

Updated February 04, 2020

Reviewer Rashonda Douthit , LCSW

Friendship should be something easy to understand. There is someone in your life who you talk to on a regular basis, share your feelings with, and they return the favor. However, it's so hard these days to figure out who is a friend and who is not. Sometimes, who you think is your best friend ends up stabbing you in the back. On the opposite end, some friendships can come from people you least expect.

So we are here to make sense of it all. What makes a good friend? What makes a bad friend? Friendship is one of those concepts you think would get easier as you grow older, but sometimes it seems to get even more complex. We're here to solve this puzzle. Let's first look at the definition of a friend.


What Is A Friend?

A friend is someone other than your family or lover that you share close affection with. You share kindness, sympathy, empathy, compassion, common interests, common beliefs, loyalty, and fun with them. They can be in person or online.

There are different degrees of friendship. Some friends are casual; you may share a couple of interests with them, and you may talk sometimes, but you're not as deep as you could be, and that's how the friendship is. Other friends, you're more close to. You spend time whenever you can, and you've been through it all. You may have had a childhood with them and have experienced ups and downs, and yet they're still good friends of yours. The two of you can go for a long time without talking, but once you start talking again, it's like no time has passed.

Then there is the social media definition of a friend, where the two of you have your accounts linked together on social media, but maybe you don't talk at all. You should not confuse social media 'friends' with real-life friends.

Think about it. If you have 500 friends on Facebook, could you see yourself becoming deep friends with all 500? Probably not. They are just numbers on social media. When it comes to friendship, less is more. Many of those friends on Facebook should just be named acquaintances, but that doesn't have the same ring to it. "I acquaintance someone on Facebook today," just doesn't sound right.

Friend Vs. Acquaintance


What is the difference between a friend and an acquaintance? An acquaintance is a person who you talk to on occasion, but the friendship bond is just not there. Maybe it would be there if the two of you talked more, but odds are, the person is someone who is nice and good to talk to on occasion, but the bond doesn't happen. They won't be the person you talk to when problems are happening. They aren't going to be the person you see yourself spending a lot of time with. Maybe they're a friend of a friend who you tolerate whenever they're around.

Look at your social media, as well as the people you know in real life. How many of them would you say are friends? How many are just acquaintances? Perhaps the biggest problem with friendship today is mixing the two up. Odds are, only a handful of people in your life are worthy to be your friend, while the others are actually acquaintances.

Signs Of A Good Friend

Here are some ways to know your friend is good.

Always There For You

A good friend will always be there for you, no matter what your situation is. They aren't going to run away because you lost money, or because you moved further away. Friends know that life throws many trials, and they will stick through those trials to the end.

Listens And Keeps Secrets

A good friend is someone you can tell your secrets to, and you know they won't gossip. When you say, "promise not to tell anyone," they won't tell anyone.

You Feel Good With Them

A good friend will be one who you enjoy spending time with, and no matter how much you hang with them, it always seems to end too soon.

You're Empathetic With Them

If something bad happens to your friend, you feel bad as well, even if you were not directly affected. Friendship needs empathy for it to work. A friendship where friends are not taking into consideration of each other's feelings is not a good friendship.


The Hatchet Burier

A long term friendship isn't going to be perfect. There are likely to be arguments and times when the two of you won't talk to each other. But a good friend knows that this is part of life, and they are willing to bury the hatchet and try again. Most arguments are not grounds for ending friendships. Good friends can forgive each other, not hold the past against the other friend, learn from their mistakes, and move on.

Signs Of A Bad Friend

If you've been questioning your friendship with someone, think about what they're doing. Here are some signs that your friendship with someone isn't that great.


The User

Some so-called friends only want you when they need something. Be it a ride, money, or any other need. They became friends conveniently around the time when you had good fortune, and once life goes down the drain for you, there are nowhere to be found.

Don't get us wrong. Friends should be helping one another. The key word is one another. If the help is one-sided, this may be a sign that you're being used.

The Trash Talker

If your friend is always talking trash about their other friends to you, then don't think you're an exception. Once you're not within earshot, they are probably talking trash about you.

Everyone has said something about someone else they won't say to their face. Sometimes, the truth hurts, and we're afraid to hurt our friends. However, if this friend is always talking trash, and not even making any good criticisms, they may be a bad friend. Speaking of criticisms…

The One Who Can't Take Criticism

As friends, the two of you should help each other. And one of the ways you should help someone is sometimes to give them a pill that's hard to swallow. A good friend will take the criticism to heart, while a bad friend may get aggressive and perhaps cut you out of their life when you say something they don't want to hear.

The One Who Can't Tolerate Differences

Friends get along because of their similarities. Few friends have ever bonded over their differences. With that said, the two of you are going to have some differences, be it hobbies, outlooks on life, and other such reasons. If your friend is always harping on you for what you believe and even stops talking to you because of the difference, they weren't much of a good friend, now were they?

The Flake

The flaky friend is one who is difficult to be friends with because they often have a reason to avoid you. There is a big difference between having real reasons to cancel plans and always making excuses. If you're the one who is always making plans and they're the one who never hangs with you despite always saying how much they miss you, they may not be a good friend. Some friends may have social anxiety and find it difficult to commit to plans. It's situational for sure.

The Pushy One

On the other hand, if you have obligations such as work, school, or family, and your friend gets angry whenever you have to say no, then this can be a sign of a bad friendship as well. A good friend knows that life, especially adult life, is busy, and sometimes the two of you can't see each other. Be patient, and wait for a good chance to hang out.

Many friends may have a problematic tendency or two, but if these tendencies happen often, it may be a sign that you should part ways.

Look at your friends and see who is a friend, who is an acquaintance and who may be a bad friend.

Seek Help!

If you're having trouble with your friendships, want to figure out who your real friends are, or need help making friends, there is no shame in visiting a professional for help. Seeking counseling can help improve your interpersonal relationships and strengthen your friendships. You only have one life, so fill it with people who will care about you.

Friendship can be complicated, and we know this short article doesn't do the subject justice. However, we hope you learned a thing or two about friendship, and you know better who your real friends are.

Previous Article

What Friendship Ended With Quotes And Memes Are Relatable To You

Next Article

The True Friends Guide:  How to Be a Good Friend
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Counselor Today
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.