Open main menu
Friends smiling together, 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.

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]

The word 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]



A Businessweek article stated that frenemies in the workplace are common, even in business to business partnerships[5]. 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."[6]

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”.[7]

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. ^ Jap, Sandy (2017). "Are Your Partners Friends or Frenemies?".
  6. ^ Frenemies at Work, Liz Ryan, BusinessWeek, June 14, 2007.
  7. ^ Quoted in Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1964) p. 37

External linksEdit