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Friend of a friend (FOAF) is a phrase used to refer to someone that one does not know well, literally, a friend of a friend.

In some social sciences, the phrase is used as a half-joking shorthand for the fact that much of the information on which people act comes from distant sources (as in "It happened to a friend of a friend of mine") and cannot be confirmed.[1] It is probably best known from urban legend studies, where it was popularized by Jan Harold Brunvand.[2][self-published source?]

The acronym FOAF was coined by Rodney Dale and used in his 1978 book The Tumour in the Whale: A Collection of Modern Myths.[3]

The rise of social network services has led to increased use of this term. Six degrees of separation is a related theory.

Bo Anderson made an analysis of the friend-of-a-friend relationship in connection with his criticism of balance theory.[4]

We have all encountered cases in which somebody has said, "You should meet so-and-so", only to find that we have little in common with that person, even though he or she was introduced to us by a mutual friend...In some friendships the persons value the exclusiveness of their relationship and are therefore not likely to let others into it. Friends differ from acquaintances in that they are not merely slots in a grid of social network relationships, but are valued for their personal, unique qualities. Hence, when I relate to a friend of a friend, I need to know something about the perceptions and exchanges that make up this friendship. My reaction to my friend's friend (or spouse) may even be unfavorable, although I may also well understand and sympathize with my friend’s affection for her, given his needs, perceptions, interests and so on.

Other languagesEdit

  • "Dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi" (Irish proverb) – similar Irish language term literally meaning a woman told me that a woman told her that...
  • "L'homme qui a vu l'homme qui a vu l'ours" (French proverb) – similar French language proverb literally meaning The man who saw the man who saw the bear, in which the bear is never seen, only heard of.[5][6]
  • "Un amigo me dijo que un amigo le dijo..." (Spanish proverb) – meaning literally A friend told me that a friend told him that...
  • "Jedna paní povídala..." (Czech proverb) – similar Czech language proverb literally meaning One lady said...
  • "Teman kepada teman saya..." Bahasa Indonesia; literally meaning friend of my friend.
  • "Babaturana babaturan urang..." Basa Sunda; literally meaning friend of my friend. There is another version of this phrase in Sundanese language, "Babaturan dulur urang", which means "friend of my relatives".
  • "카더라..." Korean; Gyeongsang dialect word literally meaning Who said that...
  • "Diz-se que..." or "Dizem que..." Portuguese; literally meaning It is said that... or They say that...
  • "Freundesfreund" German; literally meaning a friend's friend
  • "Umgani womgani wami" IsiZulu language; meaning my friends friend


  1. ^ Goodreau SM, Kitts JA, Morris M (2009). "Birds of a feather, or friend of a friend? Using exponential random graph models to investigate adolescent social networks". Demography. 46 (1): 103–25. doi:10.1353/dem.0.0045. PMC 2831261 . PMID 19348111. 
  2. ^ "Urban Legends - in Chapter 01: Psychology and Science - from Psychology: An Introduction by Russ Dewey". Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  3. ^ Brunvand, Jan Harold (2012). Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Updated and Expanded Edition. ABC-CLIO. p. 241. 
  4. ^ Bo Anderson (1979) "Cognitive Balance Theory and Social Network Analysis: Remarks on some fundamental theoretical matters", pages 453–69 in Perspectives on Social Network Research, editors: Paul W. Holland & Samuel Leinhardt, Academic Press, see page 458.
  5. ^ "L'homme qui a vu l'homme qui a vu l'ours". Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  6. ^ "Movie Reviews". 13 February 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2018 – via