A boyfriend is a man who is a friend or acquaintance to the speaker, often specifying a regular male companion with whom a person is platonically, romantically or sexually involved.[1]

A boyfriend can also be called an admirer, beau, suitor and sweetheart.[2] The analogous term for women is "girlfriend".


A woman with her boyfriend at Alexanderplatz in March 1975
A man with his boyfriend

Partners in committed non-marital relationships are also sometimes described as a significant other or partner,[3] especially if the individuals are cohabiting.

A 2005 study of 115 people ages 21 to 35 who were either living with or had lived with a romantic partner notes that the lack of proper terms often leads to awkward situations, such as someone upset over not being introduced in social situations to avoid the question.[4]

Word history

The word dating entered the American language during the Roaring Twenties. Prior to that, courtship was a matter of family and community interest. Starting around the time of the American Civil War, courtship became a private matter for couples.[5] In the early to mid 19th century in the US, women were often visited by "gentleman callers", single men who would arrive at the home of a young woman with the hopes of beginning a courtship.[6] The era of the gentleman caller ended in the early 20th century and the modern idea of dating developed.[5]

In literature, the term is discussed in July 1988 in Neil Bartlett's, Who Was That Man? A Present for Mr Oscar Wilde. On pages 108–110, Bartlett quotes from an issue of The Artist and Journal of Home Culture, which refers to Alectryon as "a boyfriend of Mars".


  • An older man may be referred to as a sugar daddy, a well-to-do man who financially supports or lavishly spends on a mistress, girlfriend, or boyfriend.[7]
  • In popular culture, slang, internet chat, and cellphone texting, the truncated acronym bf is also used.[8]
  • Leman, an archaic word for "sweetheart, paramour," from Medieval British leofman (c.1205), from Old English leof (cognate of Dutch lief, German lieb) "dear" + man "human being, person" was originally applied to either gender, but usually means mistress.[9]
  • The term young man was at some periods used with a similar connotation. For example, in the 1945 film "My Name Is Julia Ross" the female protagonist, seeking a secretarial job, is asked if she has "a young man"[10] – where in later films a similar question would have referred to "a boyfriend".

See also


  1. ^ Compact Oxford English Dictionary of Current English , published 23 June 2005, University of Oxford, ISBN 978-0-19-861022-9 edition
  2. ^ Thesaurus.com. "Boyfriend". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  3. ^ Thesaurus.com. "Significant other". Archived from the original on 9 March 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  4. ^ Jayson, Sharon (23 June 2008). "Adults stumble over what to call their romantic partners". USA Today. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b Hirsch, Elaine (November 2011). "The History of Dating and Communication". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  6. ^ Hunt, Lana J. "Ladies and Gentleman". Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  7. ^ Merriam-Webster. "Sugar daddy". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  8. ^ BF – Definition by AcronymFinder
  9. ^ The Free Dictionary By Farlex. "Leman". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  10. ^ Aliperti, Cliff (25 July 2010). "My Name is Julia Ross (1945) starring Nina Foch and George Macready". Retrieved 6 May 2012.