Used since at least the mid-1800’s, but probably originated earlier.
Meaning of Idiom ‘Fair Weather Friend’
A fair-weather friend is a friend who is with you during the good times but abandons you when things go wrong. In other words, it is the kind of friend who cannot be relied upon during bad times or a crisis. This idiom can also have an extended meaning, referring to a friend who seems enthusiastic about being friends with you, but soon grows distracted by another person or interest.
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Examples Of Use
“I just got kicked out of my apartment and have no way to move my stuff,” said Jeff. “Why don’t you get Greg to help you with his pickup truck?” replied Janet. “No use,” said Jeff, “he’s a fair-weather friend.”
“I thought he was a great friend but he’s really just a fair-weather friend. He didn’t even call or visit when I was in the hospital.”
Fair-weather refers to mild weather, so the idiom alludes to a friend who can be relied upon when the weather is good but abandons you when the weather turns stormy. There is a related sailing expression, the fair-weather sailor. A real sailor sails all the time and can handle things even in stormy seas. A fair-weather sailor is a recreational sailor who only sails during calm weather, and cannot be relied upon when the weather turns. Such sailors would blame the weather if they had an accident, when, in fact, it was their own poor skill. Similarly, a fair-weather friend might blame circumstances, when the cause of their inattention or abandonment is their own character.
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