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noun ac·quain·tance \ə-ˈkwān-tən(t)s\

Simple Definition of acquaintance

  • : someone who is known but who is not a close friend

  • : the state of knowing someone in a personal or social way : the state of knowing someone as an acquaintance

  • : knowledge about something

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of acquaintance

  1. 1 a :  the state of being acquainted b :  personal knowledge :  familiarity

  2. 2 a :  the persons with whom one is acquainted <should auld acquaintance be forgot — Robert Burns> b :  a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend <a casual acquaintance>

acquaintanceship play \-ˌship\ noun

Examples of acquaintance in a sentence

  1. But Francis later found out that the dinner acquaintance who sweet-talked him got a thank-you check for three thousand pounds. —Julian Barnes, New Yorker, 20 Sept. 1993

  2. But all those qualities are so wrapped up in others that one could hardly ask for two men who are, at first acquaintance, more different. —Peter Garrison, Air & Space, October/November 1991

  3. A classical education, or at any rate a very extensive acquaintance with English literature, ancient and modern, appears to me quite indispensable for the person who would do any just to your clergyman; and I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress. —Jane Austen, letter, 11 Dec. 1815

  4. She ran into an old acquaintance at the grocery store.

  5. our family's close acquaintance with our neighbors

  6. She struck up an acquaintance with a man from the city.

  7. He seemed cold at first, but on closer acquaintance I realized that he was just shy.

  8. While he has some acquaintance with the subject, he is not an expert.

Acquaintances and friends

People often distinguish between an acquaintance and a friend, holding that the former should be used primarily to refer to someone with whom one is not especially close. Many of the earliest uses of acquaintance were in fact in reference to a person with whom one was very close, but the word is now generally reserved for those who are known only slightly.

Acquaintance is often found paired with nodding. Although nodding acquaintance sounds like it describes a person who is known just enough to nod at, it tends to be used instead to refer to a thing or field with which one has a small amount of knowledge or familiarity (and this is the meaning that the phrase has had since its introduction to the language in the early 19th century).

Origin of acquaintance

(see acquaint)

First Known Use: 14th century

ACQUAINTANCE Defined for Kids


noun ac·quain·tance \ə-ˈkwān-təns\

Definition of acquaintance for Students

  1. 1 :  a person someone knows slightly

  2. 2 :  personal knowledge <He has some acquaintance with car repair.>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up acquaintance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to manage or play awkwardly

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