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From Middle English aqueyntaunce, from Anglo-Norman aquaintaunce, aqueintance, Old French acointance (friendship, familiarity), from Old French acointier (to acquaint). Compare French accointance.

Morphologically acquaint +‎ -ance.



acquaintance (countable and uncountable, plural acquaintances)

  1. (uncountable) A state of being acquainted with a person; originally indicating friendship, intimacy, but now suggesting a slight knowledge less deep than that of friendship; acquaintanceship. [from 12th c.]
    I know of the man; but have no acquaintance with him.
    • 1799, “Hito'pade'sa”, in William Jones, transl., The Works, volume 6, page 22:
      Contract no friendſhip, or even acquaintance, with a guileful man : he reſembles a coal, which when hot burneth the hand, and when cold blacketh it.
  2. (countable) A person or persons with whom one is acquainted. [from 14th c.]
  3. (uncountable) Such people collectively; one's circle of acquaintances (with plural concord). [from 15th c.]
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], “The Author Gives Some Account of Himself and Family, His First Inducements to Travel. []”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [], volume I, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, part I (A Voyage to Lilliput), page 3:
      Having therefore conſulted with my Wife, and ſome of my Acquaintance, I determined to go again to Sea.
    • 1791 (date written), Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects, 1st American edition, Boston, Mass.: [] Peter Edes for Thomas and Andrews, [], published 1792, →OCLC:
      Their mother [] was busy in the mean time in keeping up her connections, as she termed a numerous acquaintance, lest her girls should want a proper introduction into the great world.
  4. Personal knowledge (with a specific subject etc.). [from 16th c.]
    • 1953, Samuel Beckett, Watt, Olympia Press:
      The words of these songs were either without meaning, or derived from an idiom with which Watt, a very fair linguist, had no acquaintance.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Synonym notes: The words acquaintance, familiarity, and intimacy now mark different degrees of closeness in social intercourse. Acquaintance arises from occasional intercourse or interaction; as, "our acquaintance has been a brief one". We can speak of a slight or an intimate acquaintance. Familiarity is the result of continued acquaintance. It springs from persons being frequently together, so as to wear off all restraint and reserve; as, "the familiarity of old companions". Intimacy is the result of close connection, and the freest interchange of thought; as, "the intimacy of established friendship".


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acquaintance (plural acquaintances)

  1. Alternative form of acquantance