What Is an Acquaintance?

About Casual Friendships

Friends having fun outdoors
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The term acquaintance is one that gets used frequently in every social setting from business to family matters. But when exactly do you consider someone an acquaintance as opposed to a friend? And how should you handle an acquaintance relationship so you don't overstep certain boundaries?

Before we get into definitions, let's acknowledge that people differ on how they view this type of relationship. One person might need to spend a lot of time with someone before they actually consider them a friend, while someone else may feel that people are friends as soon as you meet them.

How to Tell If Someone Is an Acquaintance

Ideally, however, someone you know socially or through the business world would be called an acquaintance if you don't know them well personally. A good way to determine if someone is a friend or an acquaintance is to ask yourself:

  • Have I done things outside of work or school with this person?
  • Do I know them on a more personal level than others?
  • Have we bonded over an activity or circumstance?
  • Would this person consider me a friend?

If you answered no, or are unsure of the answer, chances are the person is just an acquaintance.

An acquaintance can remain a personal or business contact for you or can become a good friend at some point. It depends on the relationship and the people involved. You may have some acquaintances you see over and over throughout your life that you never really get to know. However, they are still good people to know because they can connect you to potential friends. You may keep them in your social circle even though they'll stay at an emotional distance.


  • "I don't know anyone personally who likes to ride horses, but I do have an acquaintance who might be able to connect me with someone who does."
  • "Am I friends with Jill? No, she's just an acquaintance, although I'd like to get to know her better."