Where does fwb come from?
The term friends with benefits emerged in the 1990s, popularized by the 1995 Alanis Morissette song “Head over Feet,” which, while ostensibly about a committed relationship, features the lyrics: “You're my best friend / Best friend with benefits.”
The expression friends with benefits spread online in the early 2000s, used, for example, on Craigslist posts at this time. The acronym fwb was first entered on Urban Dictionary in 2003, only a few months after the first entry for friends with benefits appeared on the site. Fwb first appeared on Twitter in April 2007, just a year after the social media platform went live.
Who uses fwb?
Fwb can be used to describe a person or a relationship. You can say “He is my fwb,” “She and I were fwb a while back,” or “I heard they just have a fwb thing going on.” The plural of fwb can either be fwb (friends with benefits), or, treating the acronym like its own word, fwbs. While the abbreviated fwb is common in digital communication, friends with benefits is used in casual speech.
A related concept is fuck buddy, which, like fwb, describes a friend with whom one has a sexual, non-committed relationship. There is no clear consensus on the precise difference between the two, but some suggest that fuck buddies are more casual, while friends with benefits emphasizes a meaningful pre-existing friendship between the two parties.
Friends with Benefits was also the title of a 2011 romantic comedy starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, which explored fwb relationships.
“I'm sorry but if all you want is a casual fwb type thing with someone, you do not do relationship type shit”
@jessg___ Twitter (May 16, 2017)
“Are you on the market for a quality FWB? This #blog has 6 things you might want to look out for...”
Sex With Emily Facebook (March 4, 2017)
“I can’t even have a conversation without his telling me how selfish and manipulative I must be, even though my current FWB has made it clear that while he’s disappointed I don’t want a relationship, he understands and accepts my choices.”
Anonymous, quoted by Mallory Ortberg, “Tchotchkes From Heaven,” Slate (January 18, 2017)