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The meaning and origin of the expression: Friends with benefits

Friends with benefits

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Friends with benefits'?

'Friends with benefits' are two people who agree to have sex without being in a committed couple relationship. Friends with benefits is often abbreviated to FWB, especially in text messages.

While non-committed sexual liaisons have been an attractive idea for ever, it remains as difficult as it ever was to maintain a sexual but uncommitted relationship. Many FWB arrangements are short lived.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Friends with benefits'?

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'Friends with benefits'It isn't all that often that the origin of a phrase can be directly pinpointed. With 'friends with benefits' we have a clear source - Alanis Morissette's 1995 song Head Over Feet:

You're the best listener that I've ever met
You're my best friend
Best friend with benefits
What took me so long?

It may be that friends with benefits or fwb began life as street slang or on message boards before 1995 but, if it did, I can't find any record of it. At the very least we can say that Morissette brought the expression to the public's attention.

The phrase was restricted to the young for a few years. In the late 1990s it began to be used on Usenet newsgroups, which, if you've forgotten them already, were a form of prototype social media.

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'Friends with benefits'Friends with benefits was a widely enough used expression in the USA by 1999 for an Oregon University student group to use it as the title of a play they performed in November that year.

The phrase and its fwb abbreviation are now used around the world, although still largely by those who might consider participating in such an arrangement.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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