Note: When it comes to the proverb “a friend in need is a friend indeed,” there’s some ambiguity as to what it means. The most commonly accepted meaning is listed below. The words in parenthesis were added to better explain what the phrase is saying:
1. A friend (who helps when you’re) in need is a (true) friend indeed.
Basically, the idea here is that when someone is going through a tough time, a true friend will be there to support them. Because they provide help in a time of need, they show themselves to be a real friend.
2. A friend (who is) in need is a friend indeed.
This is another interpretation I’ve seen for this proverb, but it doesn’t make much sense. Why would a friend who’s “in need” make them a “friend indeed”? This interpretation sounds nonsensical, so it’s doubtful that this is how it was meant to be understood.
The Origin Of ‘A Friend In Need Is a Friend Indeed’
It’s good to have friends, and it’s even better to have ones that are reliable. Unfortunately, being dependable is not everyone’s strong suit. Some people might even flake at times when they’re needed most! But if someone does that, how much of a “friend” were they, anyways? For example, consider this scenario:
Anna is searching hard for a job. She’s currently struggling financially and is having difficulty even affording food! Out of desperation, she asks her friends, Brenda and Cassie, for help. Even though they both have money to spare, only Brenda gives some to her troubled friend. Cassie, on the other hand, makes up an excuse for why she can’t. Thus, out of the two friends, which one supported Anna in her time of need?
Obviously, it was Brenda who proved to be “a friend indeed.” Yes, to hammer the point home one more time, the idea here is that “true friends” will help when it is really needed, whereas “false friends” will not.
Alright, now let’s talk about the origin of the proverb “a friend in need is a friend indeed”:
The idea for this phrase has been around for thousands of years. For example, a Roman poet named Quintus Ennius lived in the 2nd century B.C.E., and he wrote (when translated from Latin):
“A sure friend is known in unsure times.”
In addition, the phrase (or the idea of it, at least) makes an appearance in a book by William Caxton called The Right Pleasant and Goodly Historie of the Four Sons of Aymon, printed around 1489:
“It is sayd, that at the nede the frende is knowen.”
[It is said, that at the need the friend is known.]
Finally, it’s worth noting that the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations says the phrase has existed since the 11th century. I have not seen any quotes for it that date back that far, but that is probably me overlooking it.
Example Sentences For ‘A Friend In Need Is a Friend Indeed’
3 Short Examples:
- While I was sick in bed, Mark went to the store and bought me some much needed supplies. He’s a good example of the saying “a friend in need is a friend indeed.”
- When my mother passed away, it hit me hard. I grieved for a long time, but on the days that were especially difficult, Julie was there to comfort me. A friend in need is a friend indeed.
- I lost some important data after my laptop malfunctioned. My friend knew how crucial this data was to me, so she came over and spent the entire day helping me recover it. As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed.