The term false friends usually refers to language. The Cambridge Dictionary, for example, defines false friends as "a word which is often confused with a word in another language because the two words look or sound similar, but which has a different meaning."
They offer this example:
- "The French word 'actuellement' and the English word 'actually' are false friends."
In terms of friendship, however, the phrase "false friends" refers to the sincerity of your friend. If someone pretends to be on your side, only to gossip about you or delight in your failures, this isn't a true friend but rather a false one. False friends are deceptive, and often get close to you only so they can knock you down emotionally.
Friends who turn out to be false can make us question our relationship, which adds to their treacherous nature. It is best to stay away from an individual once you find out they have been a false friend, because in reality they were never your pal to begin with.
"I thought Harry was on my side but he has shown himself to be a false friend."
"False friends like Liza are a dime a dozen. She acts like a friend and then talks about you behind your back."