Fair-weather friend

Fair-weather friend is an idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase fair-weather friend, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

A fair-weather friend is a friend who deserts you in times of trouble, someone who is your friend only when things are going well. A fair-weather friend will abandon you when you need him most; he is unreliable. The term fair-weather friend has been in use since the 1800s, but the term fair-weather to mean someone who can only function when the weather is good or when times are going well has been in use since the 1600s. The term fair-weather friend may be related to the phrase fair-weather sailor, an expression in use since at least the 1700s that refers to someone who is only capable of sailing a vessel if the weather is good. The term fair-weather is often paired with other words, such as fair-weather fan or fair-weather Christian. The plural of fair-weather friend is fair-weather friends. Note that fair-weather is hyphenated because it is an adjective appearing before a noun.


Trump needs to be a true friend to Israel, and not a fair-weather friend that would pander to those who seek to destroy us. (The Jerusalem Post)

‘The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia’ Review: Fair Weather Friend? (The Wall Street Journal)

Tony Abbott has declared he will never be a “fair weather friend” but conceded that he respects the court and that George Pell’s child rape conviction is a damning verdict. (The New Daily)

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