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Friends smiling together to take a picture, but may be frenemies when the camera is away.

"Frenemy" (less commonly spelled "frienemy") is an oxymoron and a portmanteau of "friend" and "enemy" that refers to "a person with whom one is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry" or "a person who combines the characteristics of a friend and an enemy".[1] The term is used to describe personal, geopolitical and commercial relationships both among individuals and groups or institutions. This term also describes a competitive friendship.

The word originates from the aristocratic Mitford sisters, of literary and social fame. The American-based author and activist Jessica Mitford who circulated it, stated it was: "an incredibly useful word…coined by one of my sisters when she was a small child to describe a rather dull little girl who lived near us. My sister and the Frenemy played together constantly…all the time disliking each other heartily.[2]



"Frenemy" has appeared in print as early as 1953 in an article titled "Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?" by the American gossip columnist Walter Winchel in the Nevada State Journal.[3][4] From the mid-1990s it underwent a massive hike in usage.[5]


A Businessweek article stated that frenemies in the workplace are common, even in business to business partnerships[6]. Due to increasingly informal environments and the "abundance of very close, intertwined relationships that bridge people's professional and personal lives ... [while] it certainly wasn't unheard of for people to socialize with colleagues in the past, the sheer amount of time that people spend at work now has left a lot of people with less time and inclination to develop friendships outside of the office."[7] Professional relationships are successful when two or more business partners come together and benefit from one another, but personal relationships require more common interests outside of business. Relationships in the workplace, or any place that involves performance comparing form because of the commonalities between persons. Due to the intense environment competitiveness evolves into envy and strains the relationships. Frenemy type relationships become routine and common because of the shared interest of business dealings or competition.

Sigmund Freud said of himself that “an intimate friend and a hated enemy have always been indispensable to my emotional life...not infrequently…friend and enemy have coincided in the same person”.[8]

Types of FrenemiesEdit

Frenemies can be divided into different categories based on their behaviors:[9][10][11]

  • One-sided Frenemy: When one person reaches out or meets another person only when s/he needs help or a favor, then s/he can be considered as a one-sided frenemy to the latter person. This type of people do not care about the life of the other person and they do not have any interest in what is going on with the other. Also, they do not show up in time of others' need. So, it is a one-sided relationship.
  • Unfiltered/ Undermining Frenemy: This type of frenemy insults his/her friends, makes fun of them, cracks sarcastic jokes about them so frequently that it gets hard for them to tolerate. S/He discloses their secrets in public. So, they eventually start to hate this friend.
  • Over-involved Frenemy: This kind of frenemy gets involved in his/her friends' life in ways that they might not approve. S/he reaches out their family, friends or significant others in inappropriate ways without their permission to find something out. Their over-involvement bothers and irritates the friend.
  • Competitive Work Frenemy: This kind of frenemy is basically a competitor of one person. Since they work in the same place or area, s/he behaves good, makes good compliments and shows that s/he is a well wisher but in reality, s/he never wants something good to happen with the other. S/He never wants them to become more successful than him/her.
  • Ambivalent Frenemy: This kind of frenemy has both positive and negative qualities. Sometimes they can be helpful and polite but sometimes they also act like selfish or competitive. So, they give rise to an ambivalent relationship.
  • Jealous Frenemy: Jealousy can turn friends into frenemies. A person may become jealous of his/her friends because of their raise, success, hair, personality, humor, social status.
  • Unsure Frenemy: When one does not know exactly the status or closeness of their friendship, for example, they are not sure if the other person likes him/her or not, if they are real friends or just business friends, if the other will consider inviting him/her in family programs, then they can be called unsure frenemy.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "frenemy, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2016. Web. 26 January 2017.
  2. ^ Mitford, Jessica Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking, New York Review Books, 2010, p218
  3. ^ Winchell, Walter (19 May 1953). "Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?". Nevada State Journal. Gannett Company.
  4. ^ Cavendish, Lucy (17 January 2011). "The best of frenemies". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Google Ngram Viewer". Retrieved 2019-04-01.
  6. ^ Jap, Sandy (2017). "Are Your Partners Friends or Frenemies?".
  7. ^ Frenemies at Work, Liz Ryan, BusinessWeek, June 14, 2007.
  8. ^ Quoted in Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1964) p. 37
  9. ^ "Behind Frenemy Lines". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  10. ^ "The 3 Types of Frenemies". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  11. ^ Edwards, Vanessa Van (2017-04-07). "The Science of Frenemies". Medium. Retrieved 2019-04-24.

External linksEdit