AskDefine | Define boyfriend

Dictionary Definition

boyfriend n : a man who is the lover of a girl or young woman; "if I'd known he was her boyfriend I wouldn't have asked" [syn: fellow, beau, swain, young man]

User Contributed Dictionary



Compound of boy + friend.



  1. A male partner in a non-marital romantic relationship.
  2. A male friend.

Usage notes

In contrast to its female equivalent, girlfriend, which is often used to describe a woman's close female friends, the term is not that often used in reference to non-romantic relationships. Boyfriend is a relatively modern term, and in the past has had implications of an illicit relationship (as sexual and romantic relationships outside marriage were generally frowned upon). It is now a generally accepted term and has no negative implications.
Use of boyfriend generally implies that the male is a boy or a young man. An older man in a non-marital relationship and sometimes even a young man in a long-term relationship is more often described as a significant other or partner.
Separating the word into its two components boy friend avoids the romantic implication nowadays, although boy friend used to mean the same as boyfriend does now. However, British and Australian men usually refer to a male friend as a mate. Similarly, Americans and Canadians use the term buddy.


male romantic partner

Extensive Definition

Boyfriend is a term that can refer to either a male partner in a non-marital romantic relationship or a male non-intimate friend.


The term is most commonly used to describe any male person who is in a romantic relationship with another person.
Partners in such non-marital relationships are also sometimes described as a significant other, life partner or simply partner, especially if the individuals are cohabitating. At times, since "boyfriend" and "partner" mean different things to different people, the distinctions between the terms are subjective, and which term is used in a relationship will ultimately be determined by personal preference.
When used by a boy or man about another male in a non-sexual, non-romantic context, the two-word form "boy friend" is sometimes used to avoid confusion with the sexual or romantic meaning.
Though nuanced, there is a significant difference between girlfriend and boyfriend, and girl friend and boy friend. In a strictly grammatical sense, a girlfriend or boyfriend is an 'individual of significance' with whom one shares a relationship. A girl friend or boy friend, however, is simply a friend identified on the basis of gender. Since the pronunciation is the same, these words may occur to be false friends.

Word history

In the past it had implications of an illicit relationship (as sexual and romantic relationships outside marriage were generally frowned upon). It is now a generally accepted term, however, no longer having negative connotations. An earlier usage in print, dating from July 1889, is discussed 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."


  • Certain terms suggest an older man, e.g. daddy, gentleman caller, gentleman friend, main man, man, old man, sugar daddy, while the contrary is true of young man.
Additionally, gender-indiscriminate terms also apply, e.g., true love and some more specific terms such as cavalier, wooer, and gender-neutral ones like date, escort, steady or suitor; furthermore, non-gender specific euphemisms such as admirer, companion,
  • leman or lemman, an archaic word for "sweetheart, paramour," from Medieval Briatian 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 remarkably usually meant mistress
  • Users of Internet slang often shorten boyfriend to the acronym bf or the contraction boyf or bf.
boyfriend in Spanish: Novio
boyfriend in Esperanto: Koramiko
boyfriend in Korean: 남자 친구
boyfriend in Simple English: Boyfriend
boyfriend in Swedish: Pojkvän
boyfriend in Contenese: 男朋友
boyfriend in Chinese: 男朋友

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Casanova, Don Juan, Lothario, Romeo, admirer, amoroso, beau, beloved, caballero, cavalier, cavaliere servente, crush, esquire, fancy man, fellow, fiance, flame, gallant, gentleman friend, gigolo, heartthrob, inamorato, lady-killer, love-maker, lover, man, master, necker, old man, paramour, petter, philanderer, seducer, sheik, squire, steady, sugar daddy, swain, sweetheart, truelove, young man
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