10 Words That Describe Toxic Friendships

There’s nothing like having a good friend to turn to on particularly bad days—maybe your boss wouldn’t get off your case, you dropped a full box of cupcakes all over the floor, or you’re just having a case of the Mondays. But what if your friend is the one causing your Monday gloom?

Unfortunately, we’ve all experienced that toxic person in our lives who has a tendency to squash our spirits and bring their negative energy around us. Fortunately, we have compiled a list of words to describe these friends, so you can identify what’s going on and hopefully find a way to improve it. (And if you need to clear out your friends list, we won’t judge. Friends should spark joy, after all.)

So let’s take a look at the different ways to accurately and appropriately talk about these toxic friends.


The word rapacious comes from the Latin term rap?x, which is associated with greed. It’s fitting since someone who exhibits a rapacious characteristic is overwhelmingly desirous, ferocious, predatory, and avaricious. They’re “given to seizing for plunder or the satisfaction of greed.”

A person like this is similar to a wild animal with its prey. They want things, and they want them only for themselves, making them willing to hunt, capture, and do whatever else is needed to get them. Beware of a rapacious friend because you may get run over if you’re in their way.


Unfortunately, you will never have the most exciting news when you’re around a friend who is the one-upper. Case in point: you tell your friend that you got a raise at work. Instead of responding with heartfelt congrats, they one-up you by saying they got a promotion.

The excitement for your achievement is squashed in a matter of seconds, leaving you feeling bad and your friend feeling good for outshining you. Not everything has to be a competition in friendship. Another way to say this? Someone who one-ups, or “succeeds in being a point, move, step, etc., ahead of (someone),” also trumps, jockeys, or maneuvers.


It’s one thing when a friend is accommodating, agreeing to what you want to do because they know it will make you happy. But, it’s quite another when they are downright indecisive—a term that first came about in the 1700s and means “characterized by indecision, as persons; irresolute; undecided.” Someone who displays indecisiveness can make it almost impossible to do anything. You’re always the one making the plans and choosing the details, which can be exhausting.

Charlie Brown was famously indecisive—or wishy-washy. Other synonyms include weak-kneed, irresolute, faltering, or vacillating.


An unreliable person (a term dating all the way back to the 1800s) goes well beyond an indecisive one. Sure, they may flake on your plans, but that’s just the beginning. When you’re dealing with an unreliable friend, you can’t count on them for anything. They’re “not reliable; not to be relied or depended on.”

For example, if your car broke down and you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, chances are you won’t be calling this friend to help. They are either too busy (binge-watching Game of Thrones takes priority), or they simply won’t respond to your calls or texts. Toxic friend alert.

There are a lot of synonyms for this one (and here’s hoping you don’t have that many friends who fit this bill), such as fickle, untrustworthy, unsound, or hollow.


Some people crave juicy gossip, no matter the stakes. A talebearing friend is one of them. A term coming from the late 1400s, it refers to someone who “spreads gossip, secrets, etc., that may cause trouble or harm.”

This is not a person who accidentally slips and tells private information no one else is supposed to know. They are actively seeking out others’ secrets, which means they are definitely not to be trusted. Someone who is a talebearer is also a scandalmonger, flibbertigibbet, or a tabby.


A pessimist friend who “habitually sees or anticipates the worst or is disposed to be gloomy” is kind of a bummer to be around. Not only do they perceive life as glass-half empty, but they project that disappointment and despair onto you.

Now, we aren’t saying 100 percent optimism makes a fun friend either, but a healthy balance of positivity and pessimism allows relatable and empathetic conversation to flow and genuine support and concern to be given. So, if your friend reeks of toxic negativity all of the time, it’s probably time to call poison control. Or you might call them a defeatist, killjoy, sourpuss, prophet of doom, or a crepehanger, and move on.


Sure, an overly sensitive person can be challenging. You basically have to walk on eggshells when you’re around them so you don’t insult them. However, we’d take someone who exhibits and understands feelings and emotions any day over an insensitive friend.

The word insensitive goes back to the 1600s and relates to a person “deficient in human sensibility, acuteness of feeling, or consideration; unfeeling; callous.” In other words, they are cold-hearted, heartless, imperceptive, or incurious.


The word superficial dates back to the late 1300s. It comes from the Middle English term superfyciall and ultimately derives from the Latin superfici?lis, which both relate to an object’s outside surface.

A superficial friend is “shallow; not profound or thorough” and toxic because they are only concerned with what’s on the outside, such as looks and designer duds. Another way to say this? Try frivolous, one-dimensional, or depthless.


Dealing with a bullheaded person is extremely difficult. The word, which originates from the 1800s, describes someone “obstinately opinionated, especially in refusing to consider alternatives; stubborn.” You might call them headstrong, obstinate, or pigheaded.

If you don’t agree with their opinion, they won’t rest until they convince you. And speaking of opinion, they have a big one—on just about anything. From politics to the person you date, nothing is off the table for a bullheaded friend’s commentary.


Being frugal with your money is smart. But, being stingy is not. This expression is from the 1600s and means “reluctant to give or spend; not generous.”

Your friend might have money but refuses to use it on anything helpful to you or on anything productive to society: like charities or paying their share of the bill at lunch. Instead, they let their friends (who don’t have the money) take care of buying the movie tickets or bringing the bottle of wine to a party. Someone who is stingy is also miserly, avaricious, uncharitable, or cheap.

And, if this friend exhibits self-involvement at the monetary level, they probably are self-involved in other ways too. Warning: they’re probably not a friend you want around.


We know we aren’t perfect, either. Now’s a good time to look in the mirror and think about how to make your own negative traits into something more positive. 

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