Good Word: Amifam

I decided to make up a word: Amifam.

It’s a cross between friend and family. In French ami =friend, famille = family. I’ll be you see what I did there.  Amifam. It’s a good word.
The thing is, there are very few words in English to describe the strata of friendships. This is a tremendous injustice to our language (and relationships) if you ask me.

When you hear someone refer to another as “family,” you automatically assume they are close, which, frankly, isn’t always the case. Like, at all. On the other hand, when you hear someone describe someone as a “friend,” that could be anywhere from a life-long confidant to the dude you hire to clean your gutters once a year. I mean, okay, sure, there are “best friends” and “old friends” and “good friends,” but really, shouldn’t there be a category for people who are family, real family, by choice and not by birth or law or legal relationship?

No crap there should be.

The way I see it, there friends who you call in the middle of the night to bail you out of jail, and there are friends who you can call to bury the body –that one would be an amifam. They just show up with hot coffee and a shovel. Only question, “Where do you want me to dig?”

Amifam. It’s a good word.


  1. says

    I have always really really liked the idea of closer-than-family friends like this. (Maybe this says something about how close my biological family is, but c’est la vie.)

    The people closest to me tend to refer to it as things like “chosen family” or “real family” or “my other family,” but I DO kinda feel like there should be a word that sums up that kind of friend. A kind of blood brothers/brothers-in-arms word.

    My partner’s got a best friend he just refers to as his sister and she just calls him her brother, which I like. Because never mind that they were both in their twenties when they became close friends, that’s the kind of perfect close sibling friendship they have.

    I’ve had a tendency to occasionally refer to my best friend as my brother or–in true Jay-and-Silent-Bob manner–my hetero lifemate. (Or, if anyone else asks, I just say she’s the Simon Pegg to my Nick Frost.) At the same time, hers is kind of my adoptive family. If we weren’t three states away, I’d be like the best friend kid in a sitcom, always at the house like a defacto extra kid in the family until you start to wonder whether this kid has their own home or not. (I guess that makes me the Shawn Hunter to her Cory Matthews?)

    I wish I had a really good point I was making. I guess it’s just: I agree there should be a widely accepted word for such a truly important thing.

    • says

      Oh man, I totally forgot about “hetero lifemate”…I wonder how that translates in latin? Damn.

  2. says

    I love this word!
    My Mum died two and a half years ago, and a year ago a lovely lady moved in down the road. We clicked so hard, that now she’s known as my ‘surrogate mum’. She’s definitely amifam!

    My favourite made-up word: ‘Nibling’ – the children of your siblings. As in, my nieces and nephews are my niblings.

  3. says

    There is a definite difference between family and relatives. Sometimes you get really lucky and someone falls in both categories.
    And, of course, God gave us pets to make up for our relatives.

    • Lisa says

      No wonder I have so many pets…….

  4. Deb says

    Great word for Scrabble. Wonder if it could be added to the dictionary?

    I am an amifam. I’ve always been included in the family gatherings of some close friends (for almost 20 years now), and it’s reached a point that if I’m not there, someone’s mom will ask, “Where’s Deb? Is she not coming over today? I brought peach cobbler just for her!” That’s true amifam love, people.

  5. says

    I tend to lean toward the fourth type of love, ‘philostorgos’ in the Greek or storge by modern standards. It’s mentioned exactly once in the bible, in the way close disciples lived together in community. It was described to me in use, as being the love you feel for a familial friend relationship where you are so close to someone that you find comfort and familiarity in the common things, a we’re-just-friends-but-when-you-come-stay-you-know-what-drawer-the-spoons-are-in sort of closeness. Hard to describe, but when you feel it with someone you totally get it, and we don’t have a good word for it.

  6. Raine says

    I agree that it’s crazy we don’t have more words to clarify the extent of relationships in English. How can we hope for succinctness when we have to use ten words (“super best friend who may as well be a sibling” or “someone who supports me and all my zany ridiculous decisions”) to describe someone?
    I’m adopting amifam. Love the meaning, love the rhyme.

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