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What Does “A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed” Mean?

What Is The Meaning Of A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed?

Although many phrases in the English language have clear origins and meanings, the common saying a friend in need is a friend indeed does not. There is a lot of ambiguity surrounding its meaning specifically. 

According to most sources, however, the phrase usually means that true friends are there to support each other in times of need. I.e., when you are in need, true friends will prove themself and help you. Another possible meaning is that when someone is in need, helping them acts to prove/strengthen your friendship!  

Examples Of A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed

  • When my car broke down, I called almost everyone I knew for help. Everyone except Tim gave an excuse for why they couldn’t, but he dropped everything to pick me up. He is a great example of the saying a friend in need is a friend indeed
  • When my dog passed away, my friend Susan came to comfort me. She spent hours with me that day. A friend in need is a friend indeed. 

Origin Of The Phrase

Having friends is a great thing; they are there to have fun with you, but most importantly, they usually should be there to support you when needed. However, being dependable and supportive is not something that everyone can provide with this. With this, it is thought that this common phrase comes from the idea of true friends “revealing themselves” when you are in need. 

There are many types of friends in the world. For instance, if you are having a hard time and just need someone to talk to, one of your friends may drop everything to spend time with you, while another may make up an excuse to avoid an awkward/uncomfortable conversation. 

In this example, the friend who spent time with you could be considered “a friend indeed,” while the other may just be acquaintance. Although this saying may seem harsh, it sets a clear expectation in our culture for what friends should do and provide. In other words, according to this phrase, true friends are those that can stick through thick and thin. 

As for the origin of the phrase, it is thought that it was first used around the 2nd-century B.C.E by a Roman poet named Quintus Ennius. Although it is a little different than our modern-day phrase, he wrote: 

“A sure friend is known in unsure times.”

Although it may seem like a pretty modern phrase, its origins should show that people have been concerned with their relationships from the beginning of time! 

Related: Check out our “common expressions” section for more articles like this!

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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