a neutral word for your loved one?

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by newg, Jun 27, 2013.

  1. newg

    newg Senior Member

    London, UK
    Hi everybody,

    This thread is very similar to this one but not quite the same.

    I was wondering today if it's possible in your languages to refer to your loved one without saying if it's a male or a female. Let's say I am talking to somebody for the first time and this person asks me whether I have somebody in my life. In this situation, at least in French, I would feel that I have to reveal the sex of my partner (male or female). In other words, I cannot think of a word that is going to be neutral and that is NOT going to say whether I'm dating a man or a woman.

    copine/copain = girlfriend/boyfriend
    compagnon/compagne = companion (male)/companion (female)
    mari/femme = husband/wife
    ami/amie = friend (male)/friend (female): when speaking, you won't hear a difference so it might be an option but this use is a bit outdated and I think it would be weird to refer to one's partner as 'ami/amie'.

    In English, does the word 'partner' have any connotations? I feel that if I'm a man and I refer to my 'partner', everybody will think I'm referring to a male partner. Am I right in thinking so?

    I'm curious about your languages. Do you have a neutral word that you can use in this context?
  2. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Not possible in German, as you probably know. :)

  3. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek it's possible for the single reason, the word we use for it is the same in its masculine & feminine form:
    «Σύντροφος» ['sindrofos] (masc. & fem.) < Classical masculine and feminine noun «σύντροφος» súntrŏpʰŏs --> fellow, mate, friend, partner, lit. fed or brought up together. In modern Greek we mostly use it when referring to our life partner.
    There is a feminine form, «συντρόφισσα» [sin'drofisa] but it is a late one and it's associated with the Communist movement (female political comrade).
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2013
  4. aasheq Senior Member

    London, UK
    English (Estuary)
    The English word "partner" is studiously neutral. It is used by people of all sexes and all sexual persuasions.
  5. newg

    newg Senior Member

    London, UK
    Very interesting. So if I use this word, nobody will know whether I'm referring to a man or a woman... I might start learning Greek! :D
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2013
  6. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    In Russian: "любимый человек" - "the human being one loves". Best used without possessive pronouns. Sadly, not to be used in formal situations, but perfectly adequate in emotionnally charged (however little) speech/writing.
  7. kirahvi Senior Member

    In Finnish:

    puoliso (spouse, that's gender neutral in English too, isn't it?)
    avopuoliso (you live together but are not married), avokki (a colloquial version of avopuoliso)
    aviopuoliso (you are married)
    kumppani (companion)

    ystävä, kaveri (friend)

    Girlfriend and boyfriend are usually defined: tyttöystävä, -kaveri/poikaystävä, -kaveri
  8. AutumnOwl Senior Member

    Flickvän/pojkvän - girlfriend/boyfriend
    Maka/make - spouse (female/male)
    Äkta hälft - "other" half (äkta - true) (male or female) whom you are married to
    Partner - partner (male or female)
    Sambo - person you live with without being married (male or female) (from sammanboende - cohabitating)
    Särbo - person you have a relationship with, but you don't live together for some reason, male or female (sära på - separate)

    There is also the expression "min andra hälft/min andra halva" (the other half of me), which usually means your partner, whether you are married or not, but I've also seen it used about a sibling or a very close best friend.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2013
  9. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    In French, this is rather not for young people, but you can also use "ma moitié" (literally: "my half" ~ "my significant other"). Though it is feminine, it may refer to either a man or a woman.
    Maybe that gives some ideas to other languages :)
  10. sakvaka

    sakvaka Senior Member


    A recent news item from Finland: the young people's publication Demi received an award ("the Apple of Objective Information") from a notable LGBTI right organization for discarding sexual stereotypes and heteronormativeness in their articles.

    Demi uses solely gender-neutral words like "kulta" (sweetheart), "rakas" (the loved one), or "ihastus" (crush) to refer to boyfriends and girlfriends.

    So, "rakas", "kumppani", "ihastus"... are all neutral choices, of which "kumppani" is formal. Then there's also the euphemism "parempi puolisko" (the better half).

    Avopuoliso (cohabitant) is gender-neutral as well, but puoliso (spouse) is heteronormative for the time being.
  11. kirahvi Senior Member

    I've never thought puoliso is heteronormative. Is it how you think most people use the word or is it perhaps defined in a heteronormative manner somewhere? I don't have an access to a proper Finnish dictionary right now, so I can't check, but I know several gay people, who refer to their "better halves" as puoliso. If it's a question of association, I think most of these gender neutral words are heteronormative, because when people hear a man talking about his loved one, they usually assume the loved one is a woman and vice versa.

    Partneri (partner) is used mainly in reference homosexual couples, or in reference to business partners etc.
  12. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    The Tagalog words don't have gender. When the speaker is a male you know that he is describing his female partner and the same situation with female speaker.There is special case when there is metamorphosis in gender behavior (gay/t-bird).The Tagalog for Girlfriend/Boyfriend is "Kasintahan".Companion=Kasama/kinakasama, Husband/wife= asawa, and friend= kaibigan.
  13. sirupas Member

    Well, I think it's possible in all the languages that have the habit of calling your bf/gf "your significant other" or "your other half". The same goes for Lithuanian, where "antroji pusė" means literally "second half"; it is a feminine form, but it would sound completely natural to refer to a man this way. However, there's no luck with pet names here, as they are gender correlated. It'd get more complicated if the person you were referring to did not have any romantic involvement though.
  14. Maroseika Moderator

    More Rusisan variants:
    Моя вторая половина (my second half) or just Моя половина (my half).
    Любовь моя (my love).
    And a lot of uni-sex animal names: зайка (small hare), рыбка (small fish), etc.

    However none of these names can be called "neutral", all of them are affectionate.
  15. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Actually they will know because you'll use the masculine or feminine definite articles, «ο» [o] and «η» , respectively:
    «Ο σύντροφός μου» [o 'sindro,fos mu] (note that «μου» is enclitic) --> the-male partner of-mine
    «H σύντροφός μου» [i 'sindro,fos mu] --> the-female partner of-mine.
    Generally speaking, the norm is to use the generic expression (irrespective of biological sex), used by both males & females, «ο σύντροφός μου» [o 'sindro,fos mu]
  16. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    How about "bien-aimé" (loved one) in French? In writing you could tell the gender difference but not orally. Also maybe mon amour

    If you say partner in theory it could be a man talking about a man or a woman, or a woman talking about a man or a woman, but I've only heard foreigners use it in a heterosexual sense? Sometimes French people have said partner to me and for a split second I think it might be a same sex couple but then I discard it and realize that that's how they decided to translate concubin(e).

    In Spanish there is media naranja which sounds a lot like main squeeze in English. Otherwise in English gender can be thwarted easily. My one and only, my long-term companion, my love interest, my toy, my love, my honey, my friend
  17. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I think the possessive spoils that one:
    mon bien-aimé = male
    ma bien-aimée = female
  18. arielipi Senior Member

    In hebrew its not that simple because (almost) everything [=word] is gendered; in addition the only neutral word that i can think of would be used on your husband/wife (or a really serious partner relationship)
    and that would be like in russian: my second half החצי השני שלי hakhetzi hasheni sheli.

    You can also cut another (two-)word thus losing the gender context, but it will sound really weird:
    זוג zug
    naturally it comes with בן/בת ben\bat, saying יש לי בן/בת-זוג yesh li ben\bat-zug, i have a (male/female) [who is my] couple.
  19. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    Puoliso used to be a gender neutral word for both "wife" and "husband", but lately I've heard this word used only by homosexuals – not so often but twice in the latest five years and both times by a homosexual couple. This makes me think that the homosexuals have adopted this word that is today seldom used by heterosexual couples.
  20. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Another gender neutral word in Greek, is «ταίρι» ['teri] (neut.) --> better half.
    «Ταίρι» ['teri] (neut.) < aphetic form of Byzantine Gr. neuter diminutive «ταίριον» etaírion, of Classical Gr. «ἑταῖρος» hĕtaîros (masc.) --> comrade, companion, friend (PIE *se-, reflexive pronoun).
    «Το ταίρι μου» [to 'teri mu] --> Τhe-neuter better half of-mine inherently carries the neuter grammatical gender.
  21. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    In Arabic, everything is also gendered so i can't think of a neutral word that can be used to refer to the loved one but it's OK (and very common) for a male to use the masculine form when addressing or referring to his female lover.

    That's why if you're listening to an Arabic male singer you'll find him using the masculine "Ḥabibi" not the feminine "Ḥabibati" and instead of using "baḥebbaha" /I love her/, he'll use "baḥebbu" /I love him/ and so on.
  22. newg

    newg Senior Member

    London, UK
    I find that very interesting (sorry for the very late reply)... but why is that?
  23. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    In Chinese, the titles and salutations are always very frustrating, due to its complexity and all those regional differences.
    The relatively common ones are (in simplified characters):

    爱人 "loved person", means "husband/wife"
    对象 "target", means "boyfriend/girlfriend", a pre-90's era term. Clearly out of fashion today.
    朋友 "friend", yes, "friend" can mean "boyfriend/girlfriend"

    Once again, all the above suggestions are regional and temporary. Not all Chinese would use them.
  24. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)

    társam -- my partner
    élettársam --- "my life-partner" if you live together or like that [<German Lebensgefährte]

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