10 romantic words with which to woo this Valentine’s Day
Love it or hate it, there’s no escaping Valentine’s Day. With modern day expectations – to provide cards, expensive gifts and elaborate dinners – the 14th February can seem overwhelming for even the most seasoned lothario. Luckily, we’re on hand to help: single or coupled up, you’re guaranteed to impress the object of your affection by deploying some old-fashioned, heartfelt language of love.
Here are some of the most romantic words in the English language, their origins and how to use them to maximum effect. Now go forth and woo!
‘Sweetheart’, a term of endearment that originates from the Middle English phrase ‘swete herte’, was first recorded in the 13th century. Henry VIII famously used the word in a letter to his second wife, Anne Boleyn: ‘wishing myself (especially an evening) in my sweetheart’s arms'. If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for us! Worth bearing in mind, however, that their relationship is perhaps not one to emulate – the Queen’s head was on the chopping block a short time later.
Deriving from the Old English word ‘hunig’, ‘honey’ has been a term of endearment from at least the mid-14th century. Getting creative with the metaphor, 16th century Scottish poet William Dunbar referred to his loved one as a ‘honey sop’, meaning a piece of bread soaked in the sweet liquid. Worth a try?
Cupid – a chubby, winged cherub with a bow and arrow – was the Roman god of erotic love. His name derives from ‘Cupīdō’, meaning ‘desire’, and any person shot and wounded by one of Cupid’s golden arrows is said to be filled with uncontrollable desire. Soul singer Sam Cooke famously called on the mythical matchmaker’s help: ‘Cupid draw back your bow, and let your arrow go, straight to my lover's heart, for me’.
Want your loved one to know how attractive they are? Tell them they are simply ‘scrumptious’. The origins of the term are unclear but it may be an evolution of the word sumptuous. Of course, it’s mostly uttered in relation to all things culinary – but can equally be used to describe a person looking good enough to eat! Roald Dahl had his own famous version of the word: The BFG describes the book Nicholas Nickleby as ‘the most scrumdiddlyumptious story.’
In the 1200s, ‘biwicchen’ meant to ‘cast a spell’ on someone, ‘enchant’ or ‘subject to sorcery’. But the negative association with witchcraft dissipated and by the mid-1500s the word ‘bewitching’ came to mean ‘having the power to fascinate or charm past resistance’. In ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Mr Darcy famously uses the word as he proclaims his feelings to Elizabeth Bennet: ‘You have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love... I love... I love you.’
It may not often get used in chat up lines these days but a ‘bawcock’, meaning a ‘fine fellow’, was a favourite expression of life-long romantic William Shakespeare. It originates from the French words ‘beau’ (handsome) and ‘coq’ (cock). In Shakespeare's play Henry V, swaggering soldier Pistol announces, ‘The king’s a bawcock, and a heart of gold.’
From the Latin verb ‘patī’, which means ‘to suffer’, feeling ‘passion’ is to endure a powerful emotion – and specifically intense, sexual love. It’s a word that appears again and again in D.H. Lawrence’s explosive novel, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover.’ Deemed too salacious for British readers it was banned in the UK until 1960, more than three decades after it was written.
The book tells the story of upper class, married woman, Constance and her gamekeeper Oliver Mellors as they embark on a fiery affair. Constance states, ‘oh, how voluptuous and lovely it was to have limbs and body half-asleep, heavy and suffused with passion.’
We’re not talking about being winded in an overly aggressive team sport, but the effect of setting eyes on a particularly beautiful or striking person. The phrase ‘breathtaking’, in the sense of leaving one breathless with astonishment or delight, originated in the 1860s. Try telling your beau that their ‘barnet is breathtaking’ this February.
‘The Rapture’ is a term used by certain Christians to refer to the time when all of us will rise into the sky and join Christ in heaven for eternity. The word is derived from the Latin ‘raptus’ (‘a carrying off’) but it has come to mean a feeling of intense pleasure or joy; the euphoric emotion we feel when we’re with the person we love. (NB: Not to be confused with ‘Velociraptor’, the ruthless, carnivorous dinosaur.)
To tell someone you are ‘besotted’ with him or her is certainly not playing things cool, but it’s bound to get a heart racing. A late 16th century word similar to infatuation, if you are ‘besotted’ with someone or something then you like them to the extent that you seem foolish or silly. In fantasy romance novel ‘Twilight’, Bella says of Edward that she is ‘besotted by him’ and that it would cause her ‘physical pain to be separated from him now.’ Getting involved with a vampire – now that’s foolish.