erstwhile friend


Senior Member
Argentina Spanish

I'm having trouble to understand the phrase/collocation " erstwhile friend". I know that erstwhile means "former". But it someone calls me his/her "erstwhile friend", does it mean that I am no longer considered their friend?
  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes. Or else (far more likely) he doesn't know the correct meaning of the word. It is very rare.
    It's not that rare - not even in conjunction with 'friend'.

    Hughes named his erstwhile friend and comrade as overall commander of the IRA's Belfast brigade. He also claimed that Mr Adams had controlled his own squad within the IRA, known by the organisation as "the unknowns".

    The trigger for these events, according to most observers, was a bitter but unexplained split between Erdogan and his erstwhile friend and political ally, the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

    The latest development suggests that Apple will not take that advice, and is feeling the pressure to be more conciliatory towards rivals using Google's Android platform. It has settled a long-standing patents quarrel with its erstwhile friend and the two firms will now cooperate in some areas of patent reform.



    Senior Member
    English English
    :eek: I also wouldn't call it 'very rare' ... or 'rare' ... or even 'fairly rare'.

    It might not be in everybody's everyday vocabulary ... but, well no, I wouldn't call it 'rare':confused:

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Well, rarity is relative. "Google fight" gives, in thousands:

    Erstwhile : 554
    Former : 79,700
    Ex- : 189,000
    Previous : 331,000

    On that reckoning, "erstwhile" is from 140 to 600 times rarer than its rivals. No reason for neglecting it, though!


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    It's one of the words that is notoriously misused, and there are a number of discussions on the net about this. Perhaps this article from the Tampa Bay Times might be relevant:
    So after the meeting, I asked the gentleman what he meant by that description, "erstwhile board." ..."I think you meant 'esteemed' board, didn't you," I suggested helpfully. You know, the way senators call each other "my esteemed colleague" when they really mean "the dirty, low-down rat who voted against my pork barrel bill."

    Since then, I've heard many other people use the word "erstwhile" when I'm sure they meant "esteemed," sometimes sincerely, sometimes sarcastically.
    Argentina, perhaps your friend meant esteemed. ;)