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Farewell vs. Adieu: What's the Difference?

By Harlon Moss & Aimie Carlson || Updated on May 28, 2024
Farewell is an English term used to say goodbye, often implying a longer separation, while adieu is a French term also used in English, conveying a final goodbye with a sense of permanence.

Key Differences

Farewell is a traditional English word used to express goodbye. It often carries a formal tone and suggests that the parting might be for a long time or possibly forever. The word combines "fare" (to get along) and "well," implying a wish for the person's well-being in their journey. Adieu, borrowed from French, is used similarly in English to express a more profound or final goodbye. It comes from the phrase "à Dieu," meaning "to God," indicating a departure with no expectation of reunion, thus adding a sense of finality to the farewell.
While farewell can be used in various contexts, including casual ones, it retains a formal and somewhat old-fashioned tone. It might be used in literature, ceremonies, or formal speech, suggesting a respectful and sincere goodbye. On the other hand, adieu is less commonly used in everyday English but appears more in literary contexts or formal farewells. It adds an element of sophistication and emotional weight, often found in poetry, classical literature, or dramatic expressions of parting.
Farewell has variants like "fare thee well" or "farewell party," which are part of modern and historical usage in English-speaking cultures. These variants maintain the original sentiment of wishing someone well as they depart. Adieu does not have as many variants in English but is sometimes used in idiomatic expressions like "bid adieu," maintaining its French origin's solemnity and finality. It’s more likely to be used in contexts where the French influence is acknowledged or appreciated.

Comparison Chart

Language Origin



Formal, traditional
Formal, literary

Usage Context

Ceremonial, respectful partings
Literary, poetic, final goodbyes


Fare thee well, farewell party
Bid adieu

Emotional Weight

Sincere, respectful
Profound, final

Farewell and Adieu Definitions


Parting words or actions.
Their farewell hug lasted longer than usual.


A formal or literary goodbye.
The poet penned an adieu to his lost love.


Wishing someone well upon departure.
We held a farewell party for our colleague.


Used to express a profound departure.
The character's last words were a dramatic adieu.


Used to express good wishes when parting.
She waved farewell as the train departed.


A goodbye, often final.
He whispered a sad adieu as he left.


A formal goodbye.
He gave a heartfelt farewell speech at his retirement.


Farewell with an implication of no return.
She bid adieu to her childhood home.


Used to express goodbye.


From the French "to God," indicating finality.
They parted ways with a solemn adieu.


An acknowledgment at parting; a goodbye.


Used to express farewell.


The act of departing or taking leave.


A farewell.


A wish of happiness or safety at parting, especially a permanent departure


Said to wish a final farewell; goodbye.


A departure; the act of leaving


A farewell, a goodbye; especially a fond farewell, or a lasting or permanent farewell.
We bid our final adieus to our family, then boarded the ship, bound for America.


Parting, valedictory, final.
A farewell discourse;
The band's farewell tour


Good-by; farewell; an expression of kind wishes at parting.


He said "Farewell!" and left.


A farewell; commendation to the care of God at parting.


To bid farewell or say goodbye.


A farewell remark;
They said their good-byes


Go well; good-by; adieu; - originally applied to a person departing, but by custom now applied both to those who depart and those who remain. It is often separated by the pronoun; as, fare you well; and is sometimes used as an expression of separation only; as, farewell the year; farewell, ye sweet groves; that is, I bid you farewell.
So farewell hope, and with hope, farewell fear.
Fare thee well! and if forever,Still forever fare thee well.


A wish of happiness or welfare at parting; the parting compliment; a good-by; adieu.


Act of departure; leave-taking; a last look at, or reference to something.
And takes her farewell of the glorious sun.
Before I take my farewell of the subject.


Parting; valedictory; final; as, a farewell discourse; his farewell bow.
Leans in his spear to take his farewell view.


An acknowledgment or expression of goodwill at parting


The act of departing politely;
He disliked long farewells
He took his leave
Parting is such sweet sorrow


Goodbye, indicating a long separation.
Farewell, my friend, until we meet again.


What does 'farewell' mean?

Farewell is a formal way to say goodbye, often implying a long-term or final separation.

What is a 'farewell party'?

A farewell party is an event held to say goodbye to someone who is leaving a group or place.

Can 'farewell' be used in writing?

Absolutely, it is often found in literature, speeches, and formal communication.

Can 'farewell' be used in casual conversation?

Yes, but it is more commonly used in formal or respectful contexts.

How do you pronounce 'adieu'?

Adieu is pronounced as "uh-DOO" or "ah-DYOO."

Is 'adieu' used frequently in modern English?

No, it is less common and typically appears in literary or formal contexts.

Is 'farewell' still relevant today?

Yes, it is used in various contexts, though it may sound a bit old-fashioned.

What is an alternative to 'farewell'?

Alternatives include goodbye, so long, and see you later.

Where does the term 'adieu' come from?

Adieu is derived from the French phrase "à Dieu," meaning "to God," signifying a final goodbye.

Do 'farewell' and 'adieu' mean the same thing?

They both mean goodbye, but adieu carries a stronger sense of finality.

Can 'adieu' be used in everyday conversation?

It can be, but it is more suited to formal or poetic contexts.

Does 'adieu' have an emotional connotation?

Yes, it often conveys a deep sense of finality and emotional weight.

Is 'farewell' a noun or a verb?

It can be both; as a noun, it means a goodbye, and as a verb, it means to bid farewell.

What is the difference between 'farewell' and 'goodbye'?

Farewell is more formal and respectful, while goodbye is more common and casual.

Can 'farewell' be used in emails?

Yes, particularly in formal or business communication.

Is 'adieu' used in other languages?

Adieu is primarily French but has been adopted into English and other languages.

Are there songs with the word 'farewell'?

Yes, many songs feature the word farewell in their titles or lyrics.

Is 'adieu' used in modern literature?

Yes, it can still be found in contemporary literary works.

What is a 'farewell speech'?

A farewell speech is given to mark someone's departure and to wish them well.

Can you use 'adieu' in a sentence?

Yes, e.g., She said adieu to her friends before moving abroad.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Co-written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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