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Dr. Irene S. Levine

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BFF Makes the Oxford English Dictionary

Posted: 09/17/10 11:22 PM ET

BFF n. (pl. BFFs) informal a girl's best friend: my BFF's boyfriend is cheating on her.
- ORIGIN 1996: from the initial letters of best friend forever.

For the second time this week, friendship has made the news (see the first report here). The Oxford English Dictionary announced on its blog yesterday that the acronym "BFF" has been added as an official noun and lists its D.O.B as 1996. In related news, the same announcement noted that the noun "friend" has become acceptable as a verb, as in "to friend" someone online.

When I started writing Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, I tried to find out more about the history of BFF. I even challenged some of the best research librarians at the NY Public Library but couldn't get much information about how it started. The dictionary doesn't add much more in that vein.

Although the concept of having or being a "best friend" is ageless, the acronym BFF (Best Friends Forever) was popularized more than a decade ago as a quick way for friends to sign off and express their positive feelings for one another---while instant-messaging (IM-ing) on the computer or sending a text message on cell phones. Its origins may even date back to snail mail.:-)

BFF, the term, has made several memorable cameos on TV:

  • In 2005, Best Friends Forever was the title of an Emmy-winning episode of Comedy Central's South Park that mocked the Terri Schiavo controversy and after that, use of the term became even more ubiquitous.
  • There was even a Spongebob episode where Spongebob and Patrick make one another BFF rings and pledged to be BFFs forever.
  • A television commercial (for Cingular) played on the term showing Jill and her granny named Rose, who was texting her BFF.


Now use of the term is ubiquitous, describing close relationships, even between strange bedfellows. For example, Onstar and General Motors were declared former BFFs because GM introduced Bluetooth to its line of cars!

In a post on my blog, written about three years ago, I suggested some caveats about usage that still seem appropriate:

• Don't use BFF when you speak about inanimate objects or corporations [unless you are using proper acronyms for the Bhubaneswar Film Festival (BFF) or the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF)]

• Don't use the term BFF to convey exclusivity. You can actually have more than one BFF and many women do.

• Be careful using BFF with little girls. Little girls are more likely to have a best friend of the moment. As women age, their commitment to their BFFs becomes stronger.

• Little girls and big ones need to realize that most friendships aren't always forever. Even a close friendship that feels like a BFF today is likely to be fleeting more often than not.


Everyone has a best friend during each stage of life but only a precious few have the same one. - Author unknown

Click here to see some of the other terms added to the Oxford English Dictionary.


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