I guess that "Freund" is better translated with "close friend" and "friend" is more our German "Bekannter".

Especially in context with twitter and other social networks one seems to get a lot more friends than one would call Freunde.

  • 8
    Never use the marketing language of corporations to make an observation about English -- the words don't share meaning between those two languages. Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 15:39
  • @Heath: too true. Personally I'm only sparsely using the word friend when referring to someone. Actually I only tend to use it for very close/good friends. However, I know many people who use it liberally and more like it's being used in English. Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 8:26

4 Answers 4


I don't think the usage is so different that I would call them false friends. If you were to draw a line representing a continuum of friendliness, and mark the range covered by friend and Freund, they wouldn't be identical but there would be a large amount of overlap.

The Facebook usage of friend doesn't match that in normal English either. I've many Facebook "friends" who I would call acquaintances rather than friends.

  • 3
    I have discovered that a friend in need is a friend indeed.
    – user245
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 19:39
  • It might also depend on the age group. I think I never heard anyone younger than 30 refer to anyone as acquaintance, I was even told this sounds old-fashioned and stiff (by someone from Australia). So this might also be an American/Australian/British thing.
    – fifaltra
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 16:54

I believe it's a cultural difference.

It's probably true that the "typical" American "friend" is not as close as the German "Freund."

But on the curve, "friend" is still a higher order of magnitude than acquaintance, and Freund is higher than "Bekannter."

In "borderline" situations, however, an American might characterize someone as a "friend" that a German might characterize as a "Bekannter."

The WORDS "Friend" and "Freund" aren't "false friends." But the usages might be.


My dictionary (paper) says that "Friend" is "Freund".

Regarding "Bekannt" it gives "acquaintance" as the first meaning (and you can see it also here for Bekannt; see here for Freund). Plus (still in my dictionary) the second is "friend", yes, but it's signalled as informal.


I strongly agree with @Tom Au. This is also a "discussion" among speakers of Romance languages like Spanish for instance: "amigo" and "conocido"; which happen to be EXACT translations of "Freund" and "Bekannter", and "friend" and "acquaintance" since "conocido" comes from the verb "conocer" which is an almost exact translations of "to know" and "kennen lernen".

On the other hand, since German and English are Germanic languages and as a native Romance speaker I could tell easily several pairs of words (or grammatical forms) that do not match one in Spanish, French or Italian but they do in German-English. For example (en-de-es):

Wie - How - Cómo
Wie viel - How much - Cuánto
Wie lang - How long - Qué tan largo

In general almost every "Wie" + adverb (or adjective) construction allowed in German is literally translated (I think transliterate is the verb) into English. I can only think of "Wie später" and "How soon" as a not so much of an exception.

  • Nice observation. "Wie später" does not exist in German. "Wie spät ist es?" translates "what time is it?".
    – Takkat
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 6:58
  • 1
    @Takkat "How soon" is "wie bald" not "wie später". "How later" does not exist in English, either.
    – Phira
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 8:39

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