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From watching many period dramas and plays set in England, as I like to do, I've become more acutely aware of the British overloading of the word lovely. In particular, I have two questions:

What are all the contexts in which the word is used? For example, what does lovely mean as an interjection, as opposed to, say, great? Secondly, and more importantly, what are the connotations when lovely is applied to people? For example, is it quite strong to publicly say something like,

She's a lovely woman.

or

Mum, I met a lovely girl at the cinema last night.

Does saying lovely in either one imply a romantic or sexual connotation above mere admiration of the woman or girl?

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3  
Seriously, all the ways? –  Robusto May 21 '11 at 11:59
    
@Robusto Perhaps not all...all the interesting ways that differ from the American usage, certainly. –  Uticensis May 21 '11 at 12:01
4  
Definitely romantic when it comes to a lovely cup of tea. –  mgb May 21 '11 at 15:21
    
Context! For example, "She's a lovely woman" sounds like the prelude to "But she's not my type". –  Peter Taylor May 21 '11 at 23:01

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It varies. Both of your examples might indicate a sexual or romantic interest, or it might not, depending on the proclivities and status of the speaker; alternatively they might be general expressions of excellent in the object. It might or might not refer to excellence of physical appearance, but I think that is not usually the primary meaning.

With inanimate objects (including plants and the like), it most likely refers to excellence in the sensual or aesthetic qualities of the item.

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