Definition of familiar in English:



  • 1Well known from long or close association.

    ‘their faces will be familiar to many of you’
    ‘a familiar voice’
    • ‘Their brother Alan is the chief P.A. announcer at Old Trafford and his voice is familiar to many regulars who visit the famous ground.’
    • ‘Suddenly I was experiencing familiar taste sensations, so different from the interesting but unfamiliar flavours of the orient.’
    • ‘The band sounded familiar, he vaguely remembered a friend telling him about them a while ago.’
    • ‘His sarcastic voice sounds vaguely familiar to Rena, and she wishes Jem would step aside so she can get a better look.’
    • ‘At this stage of the game, your manner should indicate to us that you will be a reassuringly familiar experience.’
    • ‘Phil's motives and experience sounds very familiar.’
    • ‘Oddly, he looked familiar and with a closer inspection she realized who it was.’
    • ‘He had visited them before and there were the usual familiar faces, but on this occasion what he experienced left him shaken.’
    • ‘For some strange reason, the voice was familiar to Jonathon.’
    • ‘The voice sounded faintly familiar to Draica but she quickly pushed the thought of her mind and focused on staying hidden.’
    • ‘It can be comforting to encounter the familiar faces of cats and dogs and farm animals in foreign lands.’
    • ‘He thought his voice sounded familiar, and it was probably one of his friends.’
    • ‘His distinctive voice has long been familiar to Chinese audiences.’
    • ‘Thinking that the voice sounded somehow familiar to me, I tried to place it.’
    • ‘Artexpo is also filled with annual happenings and familiar faces that make the show complete.’
    • ‘It's a comfortable environment of known quantities, familiar faces, and common verbal shorthand.’
    • ‘Another local man whose voice is so familiar to listeners is news presenter Sen O'Ciobhn who has been with the station since its foundation.’
    • ‘The guy in charge of leadership is sitting at his desk and I think for a second that he looks familiar.’
    • ‘When he pulled away, his father laughed down at him and spoke in the gruff-yet-gentle voice that was so familiar to his ears.’
    • ‘He had copper-brownish red very curly hair, and for a second he looked familiar, but I shook my head.’
    known about, well known
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    1. 1.1Often encountered or experienced; common.
      ‘the situation was all too familiar’
      • ‘Now but if cows are familiar and common you'd think we'd know what they eat especially if we eat them or drink their milk.’
      • ‘The most familiar, and second strongest, force described in the standard model is electromagnetism.’
      • ‘For people born in Britain before the Second World War, child deaths - mainly from infectious diseases - were a familiar experience.’
      • ‘Exhibitions celebrating the art of the goldsmith are a familiar feature of the annual programme at Goldsmiths' Hall.’
      • ‘The plight of Mountain Rivera is a common tragedy, repeated in familiar ways time and time again.’
      • ‘Well if you were vindicating your right of exclusive possession of the premises, you are in a very familiar common law area.’
      • ‘University education is a process which ought to take you beyond the world of familiar experience.’
      • ‘But a brush with the new authorities can mean a familiar encounter over identity cards and threats.’
      • ‘Surely one could expect no surprises from a substance so common and so familiar.’
      • ‘These forms of unease are familiar once we have encountered the problem of free will through the hypothesis of determinism.’
      • ‘In fats the alcohol is glycerol, more familiar under its common name of glycerine.’
      • ‘A new minister faces a familiar problem - the annual A&E crisis - but is she ready to prescribe radical treatment?’
      • ‘These kinds of killings that we witness and hear about have become all too familiar and frequent for us to either exhibit our emotions or even react in any way.’
      • ‘This focus on foliage gives the scenteds little in common with the familiar bedding geranium and its big red flowers.’
      • ‘In British Columbia, L. disjunctus is the more common, widespread and familiar species.’
      • ‘These situations have become familiar and common to most of us.’
      • ‘The current debate around common factors feels quite familiar.’
      • ‘Chances are that you found the sentence confusing, even though all the words are common and familiar.’
      • ‘Movies don't just offer us an escape, but reflect our realities and familiar experiences.’
      • ‘Take this familiar experience: spell a word wrongly in Microsoft Word and you see a wavy red underline appear under the word.’
      well known, known, recognized, accustomed
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    2. 1.2[predicative]Having a good knowledge of.
      ‘ensure that you are familiar with the heating controls’
      • ‘It adds to the enjoyment if you are familiar with this type of story, and I admit you might be a bit lost without it.’
      • ‘I do not know whether you are familiar with the review that was conducted by him?’
      • ‘Not all of us appeared to be terribly familiar with anywhere outside the city centre, either.’
      • ‘They are guided through the process until they are familiar with it and can go on to start making their own lunch.’
      • ‘If you have the time and are familiar with any of these names I would like to hear from you.’
      • ‘Readers familiar with Highland stores will know that the choice tends to be fairly limited.’
      • ‘It is amazing how we can all be so familiar with something and not know its history or its origin.’
      • ‘You might also be familiar with the green lit figure that shows it's safe to cross the road.’
      • ‘She has a sister here and is familiar with most of the hangouts in the twin cities.’
      • ‘Many will be familiar with the sight of crocosmia in the southwest of Ireland.’
      • ‘Most people will be familiar with the feeling that once one has seen one Roman ruin one might as well have seen the lot.’
      • ‘Even to those familiar with the story, the sufferings of the navy make shocking reading.’
      • ‘Veteran aid workers like Endris are all too familiar with the early warning signs of famine.’
      • ‘We are really concentrating on him playing the new stuff that he is not as familiar with.’
      • ‘Our goal is to inspire those who are already familiar with what we believe and inform those who are not.’
      • ‘His work on the roads made him familiar with many in the villages around this region.’
      • ‘Most of my driving is done locally, but it is easy for someone not familiar with a particular road to miss a sign.’
      • ‘So that there is the use of language by the Parliament which engages concepts with which the common law is familiar.’
      • ‘Apologies to any readers who are not familiar with the geography of Aberdeen's suburbs.’
      • ‘Belle de Jour is sometimes fascinating because it reveals a life which not all of us are familiar with.’
      • ‘The inquest failed to discover why he had been on the road at that time, or whether he was familiar with it.’
      acquainted with, conversant with, versed in, informed about, knowledgeable about, well informed about, instructed in, skilled in, proficient in
      at home with, no stranger to, au fait with, au courant with, apprised of, abreast of, up to date with, in touch with
      well up on, in the know about, genned up on, clued in on, clued up on, plugged into
      switched on to
      ware of
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  • 2In close friendship; intimate.

    ‘she had not realized they were on such familiar terms’
    • ‘The old man was on familiar terms with Matusoka Tamaki.’
    • ‘Everson dropped the usual ‘Humbly report Your Levity’ and spoke to the wizard in very familiar terms.’
    • ‘I did know, by hearsay, that she was on familiar terms with the exile court.’
    • ‘In real life it is true that Brecht was on familiar terms and conducted political discussions with Harich.’
    • ‘The artist clearly was on familiar terms with this patron and benefactor and portrayed him a number of times.’
    • ‘A lump formed in Lexus' throat, as he watched his oldest, and most familiar confidante, and friend, slip away.’
    • ‘I was a little taken aback by her use of the familiar term but I recovered quickly.’
    • ‘We're on familiar terms with all but one of the Founding Fathers.’
    • ‘They were both regulars of the bar, and on familiar terms with Julian.’
    • ‘Ian flushed happily with the familiar term of endearment from his father-in-law, but then continued seriously.’
    • ‘Charlotte frowned upon hearing Emma refer to Darcy with such a familiar term, almost jumping up from her position on her bed.’
    • ‘It cost him most of his white friends at a time when it was difficult to be accepted on familiar terms by Africans.’
    • ‘Everyone knew one another and addressed each other in familiar terms.’
    close, intimate, dear, near, confidential, bosom
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    1. 2.1Informal to an inappropriate degree.
      • ‘Personally, I think he's a bit too familiar and a little too "nice" with all his happy hours and friendliness. But it works for him so far.’
      • ‘I'm glad I read everyone else's reviews about the over familiar waiters, because I had a hard time convincing my boyfriend I hadn't been before when on my first time there the waiter came over, put his arm round me and said it was great to see me again.’
      • ‘There is no room for your overly familiar, glaringly inappropriate questions.’
      overfamiliar, unduly familiar, over-free, presumptuous, disrespectful, forward, bold, impudent, impertinent, intrusive
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  • 1A demon supposedly attending and obeying a witch, often said to assume the form of an animal.

    • ‘The familiar of a witch is always a black cat; and it is supposed that black cats have powers and faculties quite different from all other of the feline tribe.’
    • ‘Both familiars and fairies could appear dressed wholly in black, or wholly in white, or in any variety of colours in between.’
    • ‘In the early modern period both familiars and fairies were believed to possess a range of supernatural powers which were considered capable of affecting almost any aspect of human life.’
    • ‘Familiars were usually small animals such as dogs, cats, toads, mice and owls. Many witches' familiars had unusual names.’
    • ‘To aid the witch, she would keep a ‘familiar’ - a cat or other animal - which was really a demon who served the witch.’
  • 2(in the Roman Catholic Church) a person rendering certain services in a pope's or bishop's household.

    • ‘Familiars actually dwelling in a monastery may receive their Easter Communion in the church or chapel of the monastery.’
    • ‘In 1307, after having written the "Arbor vitae", he was chosen chaplain and familiar to Cardinal Napoleone Orsini.’
  • 3A close friend or associate.

    • ‘Associating with familiars can potentially provide individuals with important benefits, including enhanced group antipredator behavior.’
    • ‘His son, James Maury, a familiar of this group, was in after years appointed first United States Consul to Liverpool by George Washington.’


Middle English (in the sense intimate, on a family footing): from Old French familier, from Latin familiaris, from familia household servants, household, family from famulus servant.