Origin of familiar

1300–50; Middle English < Latin familiāris of a household (see family, -ar1); replacing Middle English famulier < Middle French < Latin, as above
Related formsfa·mil·iar·ly, adverbfa·mil·iar·ness, nounnon·fa·mil·iar, adjectivenon·fa·mil·iar·ly, adverbo·ver·fa·mil·iar, adjectiveo·ver·fa·mil·iar·ly, adverbpre·fa·mil·iar, adjectivepre·fa·mil·iar·ly, adverbqua·si-fa·mil·iar, adjectivequa·si-fa·mil·iar·ly, adverbul·tra·fa·mil·iar, adjective

Synonyms for familiar

4. Familiar, confidential, intimate suggest a long association between persons. Familiar means well-acquainted with another person: a familiar friend. Confidential suggests a sense of mutual trust that extends to the sharing of confidences and secrets: a confidential adviser. Intimate suggests close acquaintance or connection, often based on interest, sympathy, or affection: intimate and affectionate letters. 5. forward, bold.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for familiar

Contemporary Examples of familiar

Historical Examples of familiar

  • The tune was familiar to her in happier days, and she listened to it with tears.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • His frank, familiar manner made him a favorite on shipboard.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Mr. Gladstone knew what books he had and was familiar with their contents.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • "Listen, Dick," said he, using the familiar name for the first time.


    William J. Locke

  • His name, once the most familiar, was forgotten in the list of American bards.

    Biographical Sketches

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

British Dictionary definitions for familiar



well-known; easily recognizeda familiar figure
frequent or customarya familiar excuse
(postpositive foll by with) acquainted
friendly; informal
close; intimate
more intimate than is acceptable; presumptuous
an archaic word for familial


Also called: familiar spirit a supernatural spirit often assuming animal form, supposed to attend and aid a witch, wizard, etc
a person, attached to the household of the pope or a bishop, who renders service in return for support
an officer of the Inquisition who arrested accused persons
a friend or frequent companion
Derived Formsfamiliarly, adverbfamiliarness, noun

Word Origin for familiar

C14: from Latin familiāris domestic, from familia family
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for familiar

mid-14c., "intimate, very friendly, on a family footing," from Old French famelier, from Latin familiaris "domestic, of a household;" also "familiar, intimate, friendly," dissimilated from *familialis, from familia (see family). The sense gradually broadened. Of things, from late 15c. The noun meaning "demon, evil spirit that answers one's call" is from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with familiar


see have a familiar ring.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.