acquaintance

noun

ac·​quain·​tance ə-ˈkwān-tᵊn(t)s How to pronounce acquaintance (audio)
1
a
: the state of being acquainted
They had a long-standing acquaintance.
b
: personal knowledge : familiarity
had no acquaintance with the facts of the case
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 noun

Did you know?

What's the difference between friends and acquaintances?

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).

Example Sentences

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 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 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 She ran into an old acquaintance at the grocery store. our family's close acquaintance with our neighbors She struck up an acquaintance with a man from the city. He seemed cold at first, but on closer acquaintance I realized that he was just shy. While he has some acquaintance with the subject, he is not an expert. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Roberts said he was contacted by a broker acquaintance about Raphael Michael wanting to buy the restaurant. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, 6 Nov. 2022 The two men had a mutual acquaintance, and Alpers agreed to meet the anti-government group leader to potentially pass along a message to Trump. Arkansas Online, 3 Nov. 2022 The two men had a mutual acquaintance and Alpers agreed to meet the antigovernment group leader to potentially pass along a message to Trump. Lindsay Whitehurst, Anchorage Daily News, 2 Nov. 2022 The call came just a few days after Danchenko had reached out to Millian over email after a mutual acquaintance brokered a connection over email. Matthew Barakat, BostonGlobe.com, 18 Oct. 2022 Another was a longtime friend, and the third a newer acquaintance. CBS News, 18 Oct. 2022 The call came just a few days after Danchenko had reached out to Millian over email after a mutual acquaintance brokered a connection over email. Matthew Barakat, ajc, 18 Oct. 2022 Another was a longtime friend, and the third a newer acquaintance. Andrew Dalton, Chicago Tribune, 18 Oct. 2022 Class, however, is a matter with which Lucy has a firsthand acquaintance. Laura Miller, The New Yorker, 12 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'acquaintance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English acointance, aqueyntaunce, borrowed from Anglo-French acointance, aqueyntance, from acointer "to acquaint" + -ance -ance

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Time Traveler
The first known use of acquaintance was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near acquaintance

Cite this Entry

“Acquaintance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/acquaintance. Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

acquaintance

noun

ac·​quain·​tance ə-ˈkwānt-ᵊn(t)s How to pronounce acquaintance (audio)
1
: knowledge gained by personal experience
had some acquaintance with the subject
2
: a person one knows slightly
acquaintanceship noun

More from Merriam-Webster on acquaintance

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