familiar

1 of 2

noun

fa·​mil·​iar fə-ˈmil-yər How to pronounce familiar (audio)
1
: a member of the household of a high official
2
: one who is often seen and well known
especially : an intimate associate : companion
3
: a spirit often embodied in an animal and held to attend and serve or guard a person
the loathsome toad, the witches' familiarHarvey Graham
4
a
: one who is well acquainted with something
familiars of violenceJohn Updike
b
: one who frequents a place
familiars of the embassyRebecca West

familiar

2 of 2

adjective

fa·​mil·​iar fə-ˈmil-yər How to pronounce familiar (audio)
1
: closely acquainted : intimate
a familiar family friend
2
obsolete : affable, sociable
3
a
: of or relating to a family
remembering past familiar celebrations
b
: frequented by families
a familiar resort
4
a
: being free and easy
the familiar association of old friends
b
: marked by informality
a familiar essay
c
: overly free and unrestrained : presumptuous
grossly familiar behavior
d
: moderately tame
familiar animals
5
a
: frequently seen or experienced : easily recognized
a familiar theme
b
: of everyday occurrence
a familiar routine
c
: possibly known but imperfectly remembered
her face looked familiar
6
: having personal or intimate knowledge
used with with
familiar with the facts of the case
familiarly adverb
familiarness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for familiar

common, ordinary, plain, familiar, popular, vulgar mean generally met with and not in any way special, strange, or unusual.

common implies usual everyday quality or frequency of occurrence

a common error
lacked common honesty

and may additionally suggest inferiority or coarseness.

common manners

ordinary stresses conformance in quality or kind with the regular order of things.

an ordinary pleasant summer day
a very ordinary sort of man

plain is likely to suggest homely simplicity.

plain hard-working people

familiar stresses the fact of being generally known and easily recognized.

a familiar melody

popular applies to what is accepted by or prevalent among people in general sometimes in contrast to upper classes or special groups.

a writer of popular romances

vulgar, otherwise similar to popular, is likely to carry derogatory connotations (as of inferiority or coarseness).

souvenirs designed to appeal to the vulgar taste

Examples of familiar in a Sentence

Noun a longtime familiar of the bar, she would most likely have been there on the night in question with old familiars the normally reserved writer can be quite warm and funny Adjective Some authors, such as Richard Rodriguez and Ruben Martinez, will be familiar to media mavens outside the region … Ray Olson, Booklist, 15 Oct. 1996
I think one reason I finally have finished a novel about baseball is that it happens to be one of the few subjects that I know much about. If I were as familiar with forestry, music, … or the city of Rotterdam, I am sure I would have written fiction grounded in that knowledge long ago. Philip Roth, Reading Myself and Others, 1975
The essay covers familiar ground. She has become a familiar figure in the world of politics. She spoke in a familiar way about her past. an essay written in a familiar style a familiar way of addressing someone They felt the waiter was being overly familiar.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The roaming vampire was hanging out in front of the movie theater with his human familiars, all fully armed and ready to throw down for their undead master. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, 22 Mar. 2023 The town is populated with familiars: her brother, her best friend, a new lover, a new grandniece. Condé Nast, The New Yorker, 17 July 2023 See all Example Sentences for familiar 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'familiar.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective and Noun

Middle English familier, from Anglo-French, from Latin familiaris, from familia — see family entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near familiar

Cite this Entry

“Familiar.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/familiar. Accessed 27 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

familiar

1 of 2 noun
fa·​mil·​iar fə-ˈmil-yər How to pronounce familiar (audio)
1
: a close associate : companion
2
: a spirit believed to serve or guard a person

called also familiar spirit

familiar

2 of 2 adjective
1
: closely acquainted : intimate
2
a
: informal sense 1
spoke in a familiar way
b
: too friendly or bold : forward
3
a
: frequently seen or experienced
b
: of everyday occurrence
4
: having a good knowledge
familiar with the rules
familiarly adverb

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