On Nodding Terms, to be

Also: Nodding acquaintance, to be a

Meaning of Idiom ‘To Be On Nodding Terms’

To be on nodding terms with someone means to barely know them; to be an acquaintance only. 1Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

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We usually say were are “on nodding terms” with someone whom we’ve met only once or twice, perhaps in passing, enough so that we recognize them enough to acknowledge the acquaintance but no more.

Examples Of Use

“I’m not really friends with my neighbors. I’m on nodding terms with most of them.”

“Do you know Frank from the office?” asked Gerald. “Only enough to be on nodding terms,” said Jess.

“I spent so much time at the hospital when my grandmother was sick, I was on nodding terms with most of the nurses.”

“Smith is a nodding acquaintance of mine. I don’t think I know him well enough to ask for a favor.”

On nodding terms idiom meaning


Used since at least the first half of the 1800s, this idiom alludes to knowing someone only well enough that you would nod to them in passing, but would not actually speak or talk to one another.

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