Words We're Watching

Where Does 'Friendsgiving' Come From?

Escape your family and celebrate with friends

Here in the U.S., we love our holidays—so much so that we've created some informal ones to sandwich in between the more traditional ones. We are currently in Friendsgiving season.


Though the term 'Friendsgiving' seems to be everywhere, it's surprisingly new.

Friendsgiving is a blend of friend and Thanksgiving, and it refers to a large meal eaten with friends either on or near Thanksgiving. People are serious about their Friendsgiving celebrations: there are how-tos, sample menus, rules, and even commandments for Friendsgiving. But when Friendsgiving first came into use, it was used to describe something much more informal than the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Friendsgiving seems to be a relatively recent word. The earliest print uses of it that we've found so far date back to 2007, where it shows up in Usenet posts and on Twitter to refer to this informal meal. (Several word detectives have found a personal online photo album called "2004 Friendsgiving," but after some sleuthing, we've determined that the album went online sometime in 2014, well after our earliest print use of Friendsgiving appears.) Given the fact that the word isn't explained in these posts and tweets, it's likely that Friendsgiving was floating around in spoken English for a bit before it showed up in written English—and this is pretty standard for new vocabulary.

The word slowly trickled into use as more and more people planned Friendsgivings. (It's worth noting that while the TV show "Friends" featured Thanksgiving episodes where the titular friends ate together, the word did not originate with the show.) Friendsgiving started showing up in edited prose fairly quickly after its appearance on the web: lifestyle pieces on Friendsgiving started showing up in 2008 and 2009. But it really started coming into national prominence in 2011 when Bailey's Irish Cream used the word in an ad campaign and it became a plot point in The Real Housewives of New Jersey (the episode was, appropriately enough, called "Gobblefellas"). That began a steady uptick in use of Friendsgiving: we've seen more significant use of the word from 2012 onward. And ironically, what began as an alternative to Thanksgiving has now become a second Thanksgiving, with all the commercial tie-ins of the original holiday. Nancy Friedman highlights a few from 2013, and notes that Butterball, purveyors of Thanksgiving birds, filed for trademark protection on the phrase "Butterball Friendsgiving."

Words We're Watching talks about words we are increasingly seeing in use but that have not yet met our criteria for entry.

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