April 3, 2016
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
My search for the origin of this idiom took me back to The Phrase Finder. Sorry, but my post will be heavily influenced by it. But before I get into the research, I will admit that I thought of two possible meanings. Now, there are four — yes, 4 — possible meanings given from the first page I’ll link to.
Is There a Clear Origin?
Not from what I read, although there are a number of sources to consider. Gary Martin cites all these sources on The Phrase Finder page entitled, “The meaning and origin of the expression: A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
The first source is an ancient saying that is close to the current saying, when translated from Latin. It’s credited to Quintus Ennius in the 3rd century B.C. Ennius wrote, “Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.” That translates to “A sure friend is known when in difficulty” in English.
Mr. Martin also cites the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations in saying that the publication traced back the earlier usage of the saying in the 11th century. However, I have no access to a physical copy and the online viewing is restricted to those with subscriptions and those who have made a purchase.