Asking For a Friend – Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

If you’ve been alive in the last thirty years, you’ve probably heard people ask a question and then add “asking for a friend” at the end. It’s a common phrase we use in different social situations to state that we’re curious about something jokingly. But it can also be used in a literal sense. So, let’s break this saying down and see what it’s all about.

What Does ‘Asking for a Friend’ Mean?

Asking For a Friend Origin Meaning

When we say “asking for a friend,” it’s typically because we want to ask a question but are too embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask it in a more straightforward way. It’s a way to save face or avoid the further embarrassment you worry about from asking the question.

But I do see it used more literally, specifically in online community groups or classifieds. Someone will make a post asking a question like if there’s an affordable apartment for rent in the area and say they’re asking for a friend because they actually are.

Where Did the Phrase Originate From?

There’s no actual origin to nail down the phrase “asking for a friend.” But I’m sure it originated from the world of advice columns we used to read in newspapers and magazines, kind of like the one Carrie writes on Sex and the City. In the past, people would write to advise columnists with an uber-personal question but used fake names or asked on behalf of a friend to avoid being identified.

Over time, we just adapted the phrase “asking for a friend” to be more widely used in everyday conversation when trying to save face about bizarre questions. But it’s almost always obvious, in the way we use it today, that you’re not asking for a friend.

Asking for a Friend Synonyms

Try some of these other terms and phrases instead of “asking for a friend” if you don’t want to use it.

  • I’m just curious.
  • It’s not for me.
  • It’s for a friend.
  • I need to know for someone else.

Asking for a Friend Examples in a Sentence

Asking For a Friend Origin Meaning 1
  • Hey, do you know if there’s a way to remove red wine from a very expensive white rug? Asking for a friend.
  • Is it weird to still have a crush on your high school sweetheart? I’m asking for a friend.
  • I’m not really into reality TV, but my friend wants to know what happened on the latest episode of The Bachelor and whether James actually kept that tow-faced Melanie around.
  • Is this apartment available? Asking for a friend.
  • Do they let adults on the kid’s rides at Disney World? Asking for a friend.
  • How mad do you think my husband would be if I brought home another puppy? Uh…asking for a friend.
  • Twitter, is it okay if I share my book publishing news? #askingforafriend

Any words of wisdom to help people get through it? (Asking for a friend.) (Harvard Business School)

I’m Just Asking for a Friend

So, whenever you want to ask an awkward question but feel a little nervous about it, just add “asking for a friend” at the end, and people will know that you’re looking for the answer but are shy. But, as I said above, you could technically use it in a literal sense, too.

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: