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The married person in an affair is clearly having one, but is the unmarried participant?

To use a well-known real-life example, Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. But did Monica Lewinsky have an affair with Bill Clinton?

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it could probably be two-way:

A romantic and sexual relationship, sometimes one of brief duration, between two people who are not married to each other.

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As far as I know, the expression is used only when referring to married people.

His wife is having an affair.

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Though it is most commonly used that way, it can be used when neither participant is married (as a synonym for "relationship")... – psmears Apr 27 '11 at 19:54
@psmears: but this usage is quite obscure... – Jimi Oke Apr 28 '11 at 0:08
@Jimi Oke - I wouldn't say "obscure" at all - though perhaps "outdated"... I have heard my older (60 and above) friends use it to refer to college romances; it appears frequently in Frank Sinatra songs (others too, but he's the first to come to mind); "Love Affair" (1939, remade in 1994 and in 1957 as "An Affair to Remember"); others will come to mind. I would say that in the past, "affair" was shorthand for "love affair", and now it's generally shorthand for "extramarital affair." Just when that shift happened, I couldn't say. – MT_Head May 22 '11 at 17:49
This usage of 'affair' for 'love affair' is very common in India even today. – Manjima Jun 28 '11 at 5:09

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