8

When answering this question, it occurred to me that I don't know what to call a "boyfriend" or a "girlfriend" in Latin. What would be good words?

I assume that the same solution will work for both with obvious modifications, but I will be happy to be proven wrong as always. There might not be a perfect fit but several options for different uses. Therefore I request that if you suggest a translation or several, please also describe what good and bad aspects it has as a translation. That way anyone stumbling on this question can find the answer that fits their particular case best.

Notice that I'm not looking for a name to call a loved one (as in "veni huc, mel meum!"), but a word for the status. I'm looking for something that would work in "do you have a boyfriend?" and "here's my girlfriend" and similar. These refer to somewhat informal romantic relationships, so engagement and marriage should be kept out of the vocabulary here.

7

I discussed this with some colleagues this week, and here is a commented list of suggestions in rough order of personal preference:

  • amatus/amata: Quite literally "the loved one". One can love another person in a number of ways, so it's not clear that it would refer to boyfriend instead of an idol or some other important person. However, in proper context and combined with meus/mea this should be clear enough.

  • dilectus/dilecta: Essentially a synonym of the previous one.

  • amicus/amica: Quite literally "friend". It depends on context whether it's clear enough that it's more than just friendship. For some reason I have the impression that the Latin amicus/amica has more romantic connotations than the English "friend".

  • amiculus/amicula: In some contexts the diminutive might bring extra familiarity to the word. Again, there is a risk of misinterpretation, but I might find myself using this word especially in early stages of dating. This construction is quite similar to the French petit ami or petite amie.

  • amator/amatrix: This word makes it abundantly clear that it's not mere friendship, but I feel that it gives quite a lot of emphasis on the physical side of things. If the relationship is more romantic than sexual (or you want to portray it in such light), I would use another word.

  • puer/puella: Especially with meus/mea, this could be understood correctly. But it sounds a little belittling to me, and the word can also be used for slaves or servants. This is a valid alternative for purposes of variation, but I wouldn't introduce anyone as someone's puer/puella.

4

sponsus/sponsa are often translated just as "groom/bride" - and this meaning is reflected by the Italian sposo/sposa as well as the English "spouse"- but in fact, they were also used by the Romans to address a fiancé/fiancée. After all, sponsus,a,um is the past participle of spondeo, "to promise", and engagement was pretty serious business in Ancient Rome.

On the other hand, amicus/amica could be used to indicate a paramour.

The following passage from Seneca the Elder, Controversiae is insightful for both expressions:

Hunc sensum Vibius Rufus subtiliter dixit: volo tibi malam gratiam cum sponso tuo facere: habet amicam.

  • IIRC, in a book I no longer have access to, on Latin forms of address, domine /domina were also used to address a beloved, though possibly not to refer to them. – TheHonRose May 4 at 0:13
  • 1
    @TheHonRose: Interesting! If you happen to stumble again on that book or something else confirming it, make sure to post an answer! – Vincenzo Oliva May 4 at 9:52
  • 1
    This is a link to the book on Google Books, might be searchable? books.google.co.uk/… – TheHonRose May 4 at 10:30
  • ªTheHonRose: Weren´´t "Domine/ Domina" forms of address to high-ranking people? A slave would address his master as "Domine", the "Imperatrix", "Domina"--"Lady"? – tony May 10 at 9:01
2

Orberg, in Familia Latina, uses amica in the sense of girlfriend or fiancee.

1

In my old Latin text book, the word for Lover was amans, amantis (M/F). Amicus, Amica usually mean just friend.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.