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framily

noun [countable] informal

people who are not related to you but are your very close friends and are as important to you as your family

'Friends are increasingly becoming our framily as we search for another support network ... A study has found that we are increasingly making framilies for ourselves by surrounding ourselves with friends.'

Daily Mail 22nd September 2008

You might be familiar with the old adage 'blood is thicker than water' (basically, the idea that family relationships are stronger and more important than friendships). If however, in the aftermath of the Christmas holiday period when you've had enforced and concentrated contact with your parents, siblings or other relatives, you feel that a saying such as 'you can choose your friends, but not your family' seems more appropriate, then maybe you're the sort of person that would favour framily over family.

research suggests that many of us spend more time with friends than we do with family

Framily is a new social group underpinned by the principle that good friends are the family that we can choose for ourselves. Framily, our closest, hand-picked friends, contrasts with our actual family, those individuals who we may or may not like, but to whom we are inextricably and permanently linked by virtue of simple biology. Recent research suggests that many of us spend more time with friends than we do with family, and that we consider our most special friends to be as important to us as our actual family members. Indeed for some, these friendships mature far beyond familial relationships. The word framily therefore fills a gap in the lexicon for those friends we hold in such high esteem that we think of them as family.

The concept of framily is thought to have arisen largely because of changes in the structure of society. In contrast to previous eras, people no longer routinely live close to other members of their family, and therefore need to create an alternative 'support network' – friends who they can rely on for company and support through life's ups and downs.

Background – from family to framily

Framily is of course a new portmanteau word, blending friend(s) and family. It first hit the spotlight in 2006, in the context of research commissioned by UK food manufacturer Dolmio (picture the well-known advertisements featuring members of a puppet family gathering happily together over a steaming dish of spaghetti bolognese!). The research also showed that, within framily groups, individuals sometimes take on roles that they would otherwise perform in a family – there's often an organiser, a caring, motherly figure, a person who's always having problems, and someone who behaves more like a child and needs 'looking after'.

Though only recently acknowledged in the UK, the concept of framily has existed in the United States for some time, especially among the younger, city-based generations, as caricatured in popular TV shows such as Friends and Seinfeld. In a related context, those of us who are happy to be in the company of both framily and family might galvanise the recently coined trend of togethering. This is the practice of going on holiday with extended family and friends – imagine one big, happy crowd of your pals, parents, grandparents, kids, siblings and all related off-spring!

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 6th February 2009.

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