A girlfriend is a female companion who is platonic, romantic, or sexually involved with her "partner"
Partners in committed relationships are also sometimes described as a "significant other" or simply "partner", especially if the individuals are cohabiting.
In 2005, a study was conducted of 115 people ages 21 to 35 who were either living with or had lived with a romantic partner. It notes that the lack of proper terms often leads to awkward situations, such as someone becoming upset over not being introduced in social situations to avoid the question.
Both forms of "girlfriend" and "girl friend" are used by different people to mean different things. For example, when the term "girlfriend" is used by a girl or woman about another female in a non-sexual, non-romantic context, the two-word form "girl friend" is sometimes used to avoid confusion with the sexual or romantic meaning; however, this is not a rule. In this sense of its usage, "girlfriend" is used in terms of very close friends and has no sexual connotations, unless it is in the case of lesbian, bisexual women. The term "girlfriend" is also used in LGBT communities and can refer to people of any sex or sexuality.
The term "girlfriend" does not necessarily imply a sexual relationship, but is often used to refer to a girl or woman who is dating a person she is not engaged to without indicating whether she is having sex with him or her. With differing expectations of sexual mores, the term "dating" can imply romantic activity whereas simply using "friend" would likely avoid implying such intimacy. It is essentially equivalent to the term "sweetheart", which has also been used as a term of endearment.
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 Civil War, courtship became a private matter for couples.
- A female engaged in an extramarital relationship with a married man is frequently considered a "mistress". The word "mistress" was originally used as a neutral counterpart for the words "mister" or "master".
- The word "madam" is still a respectful form of address, but has had sexual connotations since the early 18th century and has been used to refer to the owner of a brothel since the early 20th century.
- Some terms of endearment directed to females, a romantic relationship not required, are "darling", "sweetheart", "love", etc.
- Users of Internet slang and SMS slang often shorten "girlfriend" to the initialism "gf".
- Additionally, gender-indiscriminate terms also apply (e.g., lover, heartthrob, paramour, squeeze, sweetheart, true love, wooer, date, escort, steady, admirer, bae, or companion).
Distinction from "lady friend"
A similar, but not equivalent, concept is the more ambiguous "lady friend" – a companion of the female gender who is possibly less than a girlfriend but potentially more than a friend. That is to say, the relationship is not necessarily platonic, nor is it necessarily an exclusive, serious, committed, or long-term relationship. The term avoids the overt sexual implications that come with referring to a woman as someone's "mistress" or "lover". In that sense, it can often be a euphemism. The term can also sometimes be employed when someone simply does not know the exact status of a woman that a man has been associating with. For instance, tabloid headlines often note that a celebrity has been seen with a new "lady friend". "Lady friend" may also be used to signify a romantic relationship with an older woman, when the term "girl" as in "girlfriend" may be deemed age-inappropriate.
The New York Times style guide discourages the use of the term "girlfriend" for an adult romantic partner, stating, "Companion is a suitable term for an unmarried partner of the same or the opposite sex." The Times received some criticism for referring to Shaha Riza as the "girlfriend" of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz in one article about the controversy over their relationship. Other news articles in the Times had generally referred to her as Wolfowitz's "companion".
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- Jayson, Sharon (23 June 2008). "Adults stumble over what to call their romantic partners". USA Today. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Grover, R. L.; Nangle, D. W.; Serwik, A.; Zeff, K. R. (2007). "Girl friend, boy friend, girlfriend, boyfriend: Broadening our understanding of heterosocial competence". Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. 36 (4): 491–502. doi:10.1080/15374410701651637. PMID 18088208.
- Byrd, Rudolph P.; Beverly Guy-Sheftall (2001). Traps: African American Men on Sex and Sexuality. Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-21448-3. Retrieved 2008-01-24.
- Salamensky, Shelley I.; Beverly Guy-Sheftall (2001). Talk Talk Talk: The Cultural Life of Everyday Conversation. Routledge, ISBN 0-415-92170-8. Retrieved 2008-01-24.
- The Free Dictionary By Farlex. "Sweetheart". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Harper, Douglas. "Girlfriend". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Hirsch, Elaine. "The History of Dating and Communication". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- The Free Dictionary By Farlex. "Mistress". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Simpson, J.A. "Terms of Endearment". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- What does gf stand for?, AcronymFinder.com. Retrieved on 2008-01-30.
- Connor, Tracy (2007-11-06). "Sir Paul McCartney photographed with married Hamptons lady friend". Daily News. New York.
- Ben Yagoda (April 20, 2007). "What to call Paul Wolfowitz's special lady friend". Slate.
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