Every February 14th, the world goes a little crazy.
February 14th, of course, is Valentine’s Day, a holiday that many people around the world celebrate. It’s a day when people who are in love spend time together, give each other gifts or give each other valentines, which are little cards with nice and sometimes romantic messages.
But there are also a lot of people who don’t like Valentine’s Day. Maybe those people think the holiday is silly or too commercial. Commercial means that it’s all about buying and selling things—and it’s true that many people are buying gifts, candies and cards. Maybe they think it’s just a holiday that chocolate factories invented to sell more boxes of chocolate. Or maybe they had a bad relationship in the past, and Valentine’s Day reminds them of that.
Well, I have good news—if you love Valentine’s Day, or if you just love love, this post has some great vocabulary that you might hear around this time of year, and you can use these words to talk about the holiday and about love.
And even if you don’t like Valentine’s Day, I have also included a few words for you too, my friend!
This post will be divided into four sections, to represent the four main phases of a relationship. Each word will have an explanation and an example of how to use the word.
We will focus today mainly on vocabulary words, and not as much on phrases, but you can find more phrases here if you’re interested in them.
Before we get into this vocabulary, though, we should take a quick look at a few forms of the word “love.”
Phase 1: Understanding Love
1. Love (verb, noun)
Love is most commonly a verb, an action that you perform. English speakers use love to talk about more than people. We love our dogs, we love friends, we love music and anything else that makes us happy. This is important to know, because many other languages only use the word that means “love” for very serious romantic relationships.
Example: I love pizza.
It can also be a noun, describing the feeling of love that you have for someone.
Example: Love is a mystery.
2. Lovely (adjective)
You may also hear people use the word lovely. Lovely is actually a synonym for words like “nice” or “very good.” It’s not really about expressing romantic love. Lovely is anything that’s positive, pleasant or happy.
Example: We had a lovely time at the beach. The weather was perfect and nobody got a sunburn.
3. Loving (adjective)
Finally, if you want to describe something with an adjective form of the word “love,” you can say loving. This can describe someone’s personality. If a person loves other people, and gives a lot of love, care and affection to others, you could call him or her loving.
Example: My grandmother is a very loving person.
4. Loved (adjective)
If a person or thing receives love, then you can say it is loved.
Example: My grandmother has 16 grandchildren who spend a lot of time with her. She is very loved.
Loved is often used combined with “best-” or “most-,” such as “best-loved” or “most-loved”:
Example: Soccer is one of the most-loved sports in the world.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s look at some other words that people can use when they’re trying to find somebody to love.
Phase 2: Looking for Love
“There are many fish in the sea.”
That’s a phrase that you might hear if you’re looking for romance. The phrase compares the world to an ocean or sea, it compares people to fish. This phrase is supposed to make you feel better if you’re not in a relationship because there are many more “fish” (representing single men/women) out there that you can catch.
Personally, I don’t like fish, so that phrase always seemed silly to me.
Still, there’s some truth to that phrase: If you want to be in a relationship, you sometimes just have to keep trying. There are lots of people in the world. Just go out there and try to meet more people.
When you do go out there, the following are some words that you might hear English speakers use when talking about love and Valentine’s Day.
5. Single (adjective)
This is a little different in English than in some other languages.
If you say that you’re single in English, then that means that you don’t have any sort of relationship at the time—no husband or wife, and no boyfriend or girlfriend.
Example: It’s hard to find love in this city—it seems like there are no good single men or women. Everyone is already “taken.”
Taken means that the person is already in a relationship with someone.
Example: Thank you for the invitation to dinner, but I can’t go out with you—I have a boyfriend, I’m taken.
6. Unmarried (adjective)
This is similar to single in some ways, but not always. Unmarried is more of a technical or legal term that simply means you’re not married.
You can be in a relationship (like with a boyfriend or girlfriend) and still be unmarried.
Example: I didn’t really enjoy the party. Everyone there was married and with their spouse, so I felt left out—I was the only unmarried person there. I would have felt more comfortable if my girlfriend had been there, but she was out of town.
7. Dating (verb)
The verb “to date” is very common—it means that two people are in a romantic relationship. It might mean that things are casual if the people have been dating for only a couple of weeks. However, it’s possible to date for many months or years and have a serious relationship too.
Example: John and Mary have been dating for two years.
Example: I’m not dating anyone at the moment. I’ve been too busy with work to think about love.
8. A player (noun)
The word “player” is usually used with games and sports. People who play these games and sports are “the players,” for example, there are football players and basketball players.
Some people apparently see love and flirting as a game or even a sport, because sometimes a person like this is described as being “a player.”
In a romantic or flirting context, a player is a person who likes to flirt or who has many romances. But generally a player isn’t serious about relationships—he or she just likes to play the game of love.
Example: John was flirting with Mary at the bar. Mary’s friend Tina tried to warn her about him. When Mary asked what the problem was, Tina told her that she had heard that John was a player, so Mary should be careful with him.
9. To flirt (verb)
One of the first words you might hear when talking about love is the action “to flirt.” Flirting means to talk romantically to someone to make them interested in you.
Example: Dan flirts with Julia every time he sees her in the office. I’m sure he’s interested in dating her.
10. To hit on someone (verb)
A common synonym for “to flirt” is the phrasal verb “to hit on.” It’s actually not related to physically hitting someone, thankfully! When a man is hitting on a woman, for example, it means that he is flirting a lot and being somewhat aggressive. Hitting on someone is often seen as aggressive, impolite or rude.
Example: There is a famous video of a woman walking down the streets of New York. While she was walking, random men constantly hit on her by calling her names, whistling or making comments about her appearance. She didn’t seem impressed.
11. To pick up someone (verb)
This is another phrase that’s a little bit humorous.
If you’re at a bar and flirting with someone, you can say that you’re trying to pick that person up. In other words, you’re trying to make that person give you his or her phone number or agree to meet with you again later.
There are even some phrases that are called “pick up lines,” which are the phrases (“lines”) that people say when flirting. These pick up lines are also humorous or not serious, and many are so stupid that you just have to laugh at them.
Example: Ronald must be the luckiest guy in the world. He tried to pick up Jenny by saying that she was so beautiful that he couldn’t look directly at her. Believe it or not, she actually gave him her phone number!
12. To mingle (verb)
To mingle means to be social and talk to other people, usually about unimportant things (also called “making small talk”).
It’s often used at parties or other social situations. To mingle, you should walk around and talk to quite a few different people for a short amount of time, with the goal of meeting and interacting with multiple new people.
A person who likes to mingle is often described as outgoing or extroverted, and people who don’t like to mingle are often described as shy or introverted.
Example: I’ve been single for too long, so I think I’m going to Roger’s party. Maybe I can meet someone. I’m single and ready to mingle!
13. To hook up (verb)
Depending on the context, this can have different meanings. Be careful, since some of the meanings of this phrase might not always be appropriate for the situation you’re talking about!
If a person hooks up with another person, it means that they usually do something together. It might be something like meeting together or going out on a date, but it can also be something physical, like kissing or even sex.
You might hear others use this phrase, but if you’re not sure if it’s appropriate for your situation, then you may want to avoid using it.
Example: I recently read an article in a magazine about the “hook up culture” at universities. Apparently, a lot of young people are using cell phone apps to find people to hook up with.
Phase 3: Falling in Love
So, after you meet somebody that you’re romantically interested in, you may want to start a relationship with him or her. During that time, you’ll (hopefully!) fall in love with each other. When that happens, you can use these words and phrases.
14. A couple (noun)
A couple is two of something. It can also be used to indicate a small number, but not necessarily two, like in the phrase I have only talked to Anna a couple of times. You probably don’t know exactly how many times you have talked to Anna, but you know it wasn’t many times.
It can also be used to talk about two people who are in a romantic relationship.
Example: I didn’t know how to get to the bus stop, so I asked a friendly couple sitting on a bench for directions.
15. A date (noun)
A date is a romantic activity where two people go out and do something. A really typical date is to go see a movie and/or to go out to eat dinner.
Note that many English students confuse this with other similar words for activities, like a meeting (usually used for a group of people in a business situation) or an appointment (used for an individual meeting, like with a doctor).
Example: Alan really liked Deborah, but their first date was a disaster. He spilled his wine on her, and later she got food poisoning. I don’t think there will be a second date.
16. A blind date (noun phrase)
A blind date is when two people go out on a date, but they don’t know each other before. This is often because they have mutual friends who believe they would make a good couple. If that’s the case, you can say that the friends set them up, or in other words, the friends helped to organize the date.
These days, blind dates are less common, maybe because of social media. You can always look somebody up on Facebook before you meet them to see if you’ll like them. Still, blind dates are very common in movies and TV shows!
Example: Betty couldn’t believe that her friends set her up on a blind date with Carl. They had nothing in common, and she discovered that Carl was already married!
17. Love at first sight (noun phrase)
This is a common phrase that’s probably easy to understand. If you fall in love with someone at first sight, it means that the very first time you see that person, you feel love.
Example: The first time Romeo saw Juliet, he knew that she was the girl for him. It was love at first sight.
18. Puppy love (noun phrase)
A puppy is actually the name for a baby dog, so this one may seem like a strange way to talk about love.
But if you say that someone is experiencing puppy love, then you probably think that the love isn’t true or isn’t serious. It might just be a strong, temporary emotion, but you don’t think it will last a long time.
Example: Many people say that teenagers in love are just experiencing puppy love. But if you ask the teenagers, they’ll often say that it’s real and that their love will last forever.
19. Baby (noun)
Numbers 19-22 are all names that people in relationships call their partners. These types of names are called “pet names,” “nicknames” or “terms of endearment.”
I’ll include an example with number 19, but you can substitute 20, 21 or 22 and it will mean the same thing.
Of course, there are many more nicknames that people give to their partners or the people they love (a popular one here in Costa Rica is gordito, meaning “fat little one”!), but these are some of the most common romantic ones in English.
Baby is extremely common in English. Another common version of baby is babe.
Frank: “Hey, baby, do you know where the car keys are?”
Helen: “I’m not sure, babe, I think you had them last.”
20. Honey (noun)
Honey is the food that bees make. It’s naturally sweet (tasting), so I suppose that it makes sense to say this to someone who is sweet (in their personality).
21. Darling (noun)
Darling means that something is very valuable or precious to you. You may call someone you love darling or my darling.
22. Sweetie (noun)
Sweetie is just a way of making sweet (an adjective) into a noun, so you can say it to someone you think is sweet.
23. Committed (adjective)
When two people are together for a long time, you can say that they’re committed. This means that they’re dedicated to each other.
You can also say that a person is committed to an activity, like doing a job or doing exercise, for example.
The noun form of this word is commitment.
Example: Many older couples say that the key to staying committed to your partner is to not stress out or worry about unimportant things.
24. Engaged (adjective)
When two people decide to get married, then you can say that they’re engaged. Usually this is after one person proposes marriage to the other person (see #30).
The noun form of this word is engagement.
Example: Did you hear the news? Jack and Diane finally got engaged! They had been dating for about 10 years, and many people were wondering if they would ever get married.
25. To swipe (verb)
This is a word that’s commonly used when talking about dating apps like Tinder. I had to actually do some research for this word, since I didn’t have any personal experience!
If you swipe something on your phone, it means that you put your finger on your phone’s screen and then move your finger in one direction.
If you’re using a dating app like Tinder, then this app will show you pictures of people who you might be interested in romantically.
If you’re interested, you swipe your finger to the right. If you’re not interested, you swipe to the left. Then, if the other person is also interested, then he/she will swipe to the right also. If you both swipe right, then the app will let you contact each other.
This all sounds very complicated, and it makes me happy that I got married before smartphones became popular!
Example: Ingrid was using her Tinder app at the bar. All of the guys looked like players, so after she had swiped left about 15 times, she gave up and went home.
26. To ask out (verb)
If you ask someone out, then you ask him or her to go on a date with you. Usually this phrase is just used for the first time you invite someone to go on a date.
Example: Greg was nervous to ask Lena out, but finally he got the courage and did it. She said she would be happy to go out with him, and now they’ve been dating for two months.
27. To go (out) on a date (verb)
This phrase is very similar to the next one. They’re both used to describe the situation when two people are on a date. It can be for the first date, or for any additional dates.
Example: This weekend is Valentine’s Day, so it might not be the best time to go out on a date. I think all of the restaurants will be completely full. Do you just want to stay at home?
28. To go out (verb)
As we saw in number 27, this can usually mean to go on a date. But it can also be used to just leave your house and do something fun. If you want to go out, but you don’t like the other person romantically, you can say you’ll go out to the cinema (or wherever else), but you’ll go just as friends.
29. To fall in love (verb)
We quickly mentioned this in number 17. If you fall in love with someone, it means that you start to love that person. Sometimes it’s a long process, and sometimes it happens in one instant.
Example: Romeo and Juliet fell in love immediately the first time they saw each other.
30. To propose (verb)
Do you remember seeing this one in number 24? The verb propose is similar to “suggest,” but it often means that one person is proposing marriage to the other. Usually the formal way to ask this question is “will you marry me?”
Example: Tom proposed to Rebecca while they were walking on the beach. He got down on one knee, gave her a ring and asked her “will you marry me?”.
31. To get engaged (verb)
When one person proposes to another and they decide to get married, then you can say that they got engaged. If you remember from number 24, this means that the two people have committed to getting married in the future.
Example: Pete and Shelly got engaged on the same day that she got a new job—it was a busy day!
32. To get married (verb)
This is the action that happens on the day of a wedding. Before that day, you can say that the people in the couple are a fiancé (male) or fiancée (female), which means they’re engaged. After that day you can say that they’re married.
Example: They got married in the Caribbean. It was called a “destination wedding,” because everyone had to travel to participate in the wedding.
Phase 4: Settling Down
After a couple is together for a while, they often get married or move in together, and then a new phase of their lives begins. Here are some helpful words to talk about that time.
33. To settle (for something) (verb)
The verb settle is a bit difficult to define, since it can have different meanings.
If you settle for something, it means that you accept something that isn’t as good as it could or should be. In other words, you’re probably lowering your standards or not being as demanding as you should be.
Example: After John and Sara got married, they wanted to buy a house. They couldn’t afford their dream house, so they settled for a cheaper house that was not as beautiful.
34. To settle (down) (verb)
This is another away to use the verb settle.
If you say that someone is settling down, it means that he or she is starting a calmer, more “domestic” part of his or her life. Usually typical parts of that process are to find a partner, get married, buy a house, have children, etc.
Example: Veronica was ready to settle down, but Victor said he wasn’t. He said that he wanted to date a few other women to be sure that Veronica was the right one. Veronica decided that she wouldn’t settle for a man who was not ready to commit to her, and she broke up with him.
35. Wedding (noun)
If you remember from number 32, this is the name for the event that happens when two people get married. A wedding day often includes a ceremony (in a church or at a courthouse, for example) and a celebration (also called a reception).
Example: Some people say that if it rains on your wedding day, it’s a sign of good luck to come in the future.
36. Bride (noun)
Remember, we saw that there’s a special name for people who are engaged: fiancé or fiancée.
But there are also special names that are used basically for just one day: The wedding day. A bride is the name for a woman on her wedding day. Before the wedding day, she’s a fiancée or a girlfriend. After the wedding day, she is a wife.
37. Groom (noun)
This is the male equivalent of a bride. A groom is the name for a man on his wedding day. Before, he’s a fiancé and after, he’s a husband.
38. Gown (noun)
Brides and grooms often wear special clothes for their weddings, and the clothing has special names, also.
A gown is another name for a fancy or very special dress, so a wedding gown is what a bride usually wears for her wedding. This can also be called a wedding dress.
39. Tuxedo (noun)
A tuxedo (also called a “tux”) is a special suit that a man wears for a very formal occasion. Many men get married wearing a tuxedo, but not all of them.
If you want to see many examples of tuxedos and gowns, be sure to watch The Academy Awards, also known as The Oscars, on February 28th!
Example: We went to a very unusual wedding last weekend. There were no gowns or tuxes. Instead, the bride wore a bikini and the groom wore surf shorts!
40. Honeymoon (noun)
After the wedding, it’s very common for the newly-married husband and wife to take a special trip to celebrate their new life together. This trip is called a honeymoon.
Example: We were considering having a very fancy, expensive wedding. But instead we decided to have a small, simple wedding. We had more money to spend on a wonderful honeymoon!
41. Spouse (noun)
What can you call the people you love when you’re talking about them to other people? Numbers 41-43 are some of the most common generic options.
A spouse is a generic word for a husband or a wife. It doesn’t matter if it’s used to describe a man or a woman, but it does describe someone who is married.
42. Significant other (noun phrase)
If you’re generally describing people who are not married, but who are in relationships, you can say that they are significant others.
43. Partner (noun)
A similar word to significant other is partner, but that can also get confusing, since it can also be used for business partners or people who work together in a group.
Example: The company had a wonderful Christmas party. Employees were asked to invite their spouses or significant others. If they didn’t have a partner, they could even invite a friend.
44. Love handles (noun phrase)
Numbers 44-47 are four common signs that a person, especially a man, is settling down. They’re funny words, but you’ll hear them frequently.
Supposedly, when people get married or settle down, they stop trying to impress others in order to get dates. They don’t work as hard to maintain their physical appearance. At least, that’s the theory.
The phrase love handles is a cute way to describe the fat that appears on the side of a person’s stomach or abdomen.
45. Spare tire (noun phrase)
The phrase spare tire describes a similar phenomenon, but it covers a person’s whole belly (stomach). It’s called that because it looks like an extra (spare) tire for a car!
46. Beer belly (noun phrase)
You can also say that a person with a spare tire has a beer belly. This is basically the same thing, but it can often be more in the front, and stick out more. Obviously, the idea here is that the man has been drinking too much beer, which is high in calories.
47. Dad bod (noun phrase)
Finally, there’s a relatively new phrase used to describe what happens to a man’s body after he has a child: Dad bod. “Bod” is an abbreviation for “body,” and so the term “dad bod” describes a man who was possibly physically fit in the past, but who doesn’t have time to exercise now because he has children.
Example: Ryan didn’t drink much, so he was able to avoid getting a beer belly or a spare tire after he got married. However, after he and his wife had their first child, he quickly developed a dad bod since he no longer had time to exercise.
Well, those are all the words you need to know about love, right?
Not so fast.
Unfortunately, there are times when love doesn’t last forever. Like I mentioned in the introduction, there are many people who actually hate Valentine’s Day for one reason or another.
I want to keep this post happy and positive, especially since I think there are many positive aspects about Valentine’s Day.
If you agree and you’re in love, that’s great! I’m happy for you. I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and that you and your lover live happily ever after. You can feel free to stop reading now.
Are all the happy people in love gone? Okay, then here’s the final “bonus” section:
Phase 5: When Love Ends
If you are sick and tired of love, then continue reading the next section because it’s just for you.
Of course we all want to have a happy ending to our love stories, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Here are a few phrases to help you talk about those sad times.
48. A broken heart (noun)
A broken heart is just what it sounds like: when something bad happens (like a relationship ending), and you feel like your heart doesn’t work right anymore.
You will often hear this as an adjective, brokenhearted, or a verb phrase, to break (someone’s) heart.
Example: Bill was brokenhearted when his girlfriend moved to France, but after a few days of feeling sad, he started to feel better.
49. To break up with someone (verb)
This phrase is used to describe what happens when two people end their relationship.
If only one person does the action, you can say that he or she broke up with the other person. And if both people agree that it’s better to stop the relationship, you can say they broke up.
Example: Tammy said that she and her boyfriend had broken up. But in reality, I think he broke up with her because she wasn’t interested in the relationship.
Finally, if you do break up and feel brokenhearted, you may hear someone say this next expression.
50. It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.
This phrase is based on a quotation by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It means that even though love is difficult sometimes, it’s still an important part of life. Even if you have problems in love, you can still look on the positive side: At least you experienced love.
And with that idea, I wish you a happy, lovely, loving Valentine’s Day!
Ryan Sitzman teaches English and sometimes German in Costa Rica. He is passionate about learning, coffee, traveling, languages, writing, photography, books, and movies, but not necessarily in that order. You can learn more or connect with him through his website Sitzman ABC.
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