Venture for long in the world of social media and you will learn what it means to “unfriend.” You will realize a former social media follower has chosen to turn his or her back on you, or you will be the one who clicks the button, deciding to no longer interact with a person who has offended you. The practice is common in the 21st century, but the actual term is almost 750 years old.
Centuries before the first computer and long before the concept of social media was born, the word unfriend made its first appearance. We can than the British poet Layamon for this contribution to our lexicon.
The word first shows up in noun form in 1275. With the definition of “one who is not a friend,” it makes appearance in Layamon’s medieval epic poem “Brut.” Curiously, this poem is also notable for the first recorded appearance of the word muggle, which, in this case, refers to “a tail resembling that of a fish,” rather than the Harry Potter description of a person born without magical abilities.
We have to wait nearly 200 years (but still 350 years before Facebook) before unfriend enters the English language in verb form. For this, we can credit a 1659 work by T. Fuller, who wrote, “I Hope, Sir, that we are not mutually Un-friended by this Difference which hath happened betwixt us.”
Categories: History, Languages, Literature
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