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Has a German term for the English word frenemy been developed?

I found a definition through Google:

Eine Person, die nur vorgibt ein Freund zu sein.

I would say this is accurate, however I'm wondering if any slang is being used in current German for this?

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2 Answers 2

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This blend or portmanteau of "friend" and "enemy" is only rarely found in contemporary German media, but it may be the starting point of a new loanword that will eventually make its way into common usage over time:

Vielleicht lernen ja alle Beteiligten etwas daraus. Etwa, dass auf Dauer Kompromissbereitschaft unter geschäftlichen Frenemys wertvoll ist - Frenemy, weil Google eben sowohl Friend als auch Enemy der Verlage ist, je nach Sichtweise. Was soll da helfen, außer miteinander zu reden? Süddeutsche Digital 1. März 2013

Until then we may use a different wording to define friends who in reality are enemies or rivals:

Examples:

Seine sogenannten Freunde sind nur auf sein Geld aus.
Schöne Freunde hast du da, die dich immer zu Unsinn anstiften.
Mit dem Ruhm kamen auch eine Reihe angeblicher Freunde.
Ihre vielen "Freunde" werden ihr zunehmend eine Last.

We do also find the translation "falsche Freunde". I feel this is correct but we need to take care to not confuse this with the term "false friends" used in translations.

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The German definition of frenemy (or frienemy), namely that of a "pretend friend", that you found appears to be how many Germans interpret this English portmanteau.

One German blogger even started a blog around this definition!

However, English speakers may also use it to refer to "... someone who really is your friend but is also a rival" (Wikipedia).

You can find this alternative meaning used probably as often in German, too:

Fabio Stassi fesselt in seinem Schachroman beide Rivalen schicksalhaft aneinander: "Wäre Capablanca nicht auf die Welt gekommen, hätte Aljechin keinen Rivalen gehabt"; umgekehrt wäre Capablanca nichts ohne seinen hassgeliebten Freundfeind gewesen. Source: Pfälzischer Merkur

So as the quote from Merkur shows, when you are thinking of a person as a frienemy in the sense of someone you love to hate, use Freundfeind. (Make sure, though, to surround it with sufficient explanatory context as it is not a common word.)

Update: According to DWDS, the first writer to use the word may have been Lionel Feuchtwanger (b. 1884 in Munich - d. 1958 in Los Angeles). It is not tied to a specific geographic area. (DWDS lists eleven uses in articles in Die Zeit, a weekly newspaper edited in Hamburg but published nationwide, alone.)

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    I've never heard about this artificial word, falscher Freund is the one.
    – äüö
    Jun 19, 2013 at 9:47
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    nice - "Freundfeind" already found it's way to Duden.
    – Takkat
    Jun 19, 2013 at 9:50
  • Dear falkb, this question, in case it escaped your notice, starts from an "artificial" word -- fr(i)enemy -- in the first place. (Though the technically accurate description, as I said, is portmanteau). It may be that you had not heard of Freundfeind before but now that you have, feel free to find more instances of its use in the German language; I certainly have been familiar with it for a long time. Jun 19, 2013 at 9:52
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    So Freundfeind seems to be a regionally known term. It's totally not used here and I had just replied Hä? ;) Duden rates its commonness with the lowest value also.
    – äüö
    Jun 19, 2013 at 14:06

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