Mutual friend or common friend

  • Greyfriar

    Senior Member

    I would only ever use "mutual friend". "Common friend" could be misinterpreted as a friend who has bad manners and behaviour patterns.

    There are quite a few points with which I disagree in the link you have provided.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    I can't see that site from work, but, for what it's worth, the domain name is registered in India.


    English - England
    "mutual friend" is a wrong expression and we should say "common friend" instead,
    18. 'Mutual friend': Is wrong to say so. Instead we can say 'common friend'. Likewise, we should say – 'common interest' instead 'mutual interest'.

    1850 Notes & Queries 5 Jan. 149/2 We might possibly say of two persons that they are ‘mutual friends’, that is, ‘friends to each other’; though it would be more proper to say, ‘they are mutually friendly’.

    It was Dickens' book "Our Mutual Friend" that publicity to what was seen as a mistake, and technically it is a mistake, but I don't think anyone takes any notice.

    If something is mutual it is reciprocal - Mutual cannot be used of a friend as there is no reciprocity:
    2004 P. Freedman in T. Clayton et al. Shakespeare & Mediterranean 170 We can see that overall there are certain norms for thou use between mutual lovers.

    3. Instead we can say 'common friend'. (or better "friend in common") this means "shared" and is correct.

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I see nothing wrong with "mutual friend", but I would be just as likely to use "common friend". I really cannot imagine the situation where "common" might be misinterpreted as uncouth when using this expression.

    Unlike most of the other examples, "mutual" is not superfluous.; it adds meaning. "Common" adds the same meaning; they are just different ways of expressing the same thing.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    From the OED Third Edition (2003) entry for mutual, adj. and n. - my highlighting:
    4. Held in common or shared between two or more parties.
    This use has in the past been censured as incorrect but it is nevertheless frequent. It has probably been used in preference to common on account of the ambiguity of the latter (which in many contexts could also mean ‘ordinary’, ‘mean’, or ‘vulgar’).
    a. Of a feeling, action, or thing.
    1600 Shakespeare Merchant of Venice v. i. 77 If..any ayre of musique touch their eares, you shall perceaue them make a mutuall stand.
    b. Of a person or people.
    Now usually used of friends, acquaintances, etc., and rarely applied to blood relatives.
    1632 T. Hawkins tr. P. Matthieu Vnhappy Prosperitie 22 Hee turneth himselfe towards his wife, conjureth her by the love he had borne her,..and by their mutuall children, a little to humble her spirit.
    1658 G. Starkey Pyrotechny Ded. p. i My good Fortune, first by the Occasion of our Mutual Friend, Dr. Robert Child.
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    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    If I used "common" I would only use it in the form "We have a friend in common."
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