Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Two people like each other or are in love but neither one has expressed it openly, so they each wonder about the other and consequently frustrations might begin to build... What's that called?

EDIT: March 3rd, 2012
The word I'm looking for describes love in such a fashion where two people love each other, but frustrations build because neither has acknowledged loving the other.

share|improve this question
It is simply called love. –  Hans-Peter E. Kristiansen Feb 25 '12 at 3:27
@Hans-PeterE.Kristiansen The word I'm looking for describes love in such a fashion where two people love each other, but frustrations build because neither has acknowledged loving the other. –  trusktr Mar 4 '12 at 0:24

7 Answers 7

The most common expression is "unspoken love" (8960 written instances in Google Books). You could also call it "unacknowledged love", but some people may miscontrue that love as only "unacknowledged" by one of the two "would-be" lovers.

share|improve this answer
unrequited is the more common term –  mgb Feb 25 '12 at 4:47
@mgb: unrequited love is love that is not returned at all. That is different to love that is returned but not explicitly acknowledged. –  John Bartholomew Feb 25 '12 at 5:06

Mamihlapinatapai is "a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves."

share|improve this answer
Raven E Porreca, it is customary here to provide attribution of direct quotes, or links to source, or both. –  jwpat7 Mar 12 '12 at 4:00
But is it English? –  Pitarou Mar 12 '12 at 4:50

You could call that love.

love is defined as A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.

So whether the love is acknowledge or not it's still love. If you still need a word for it you could call it unconditional love or unacknowledged love.

share|improve this answer
Unconditional love has implications way beyond what the O.P. is trying to express. It is love without conditions or limits; it is a self-sacrificing love, such as the tender devotion one spouse might give to another during a long battle with a debilitating disease, or the steadfast acceptance a parent might show toward a rebellious child. In Christian theology, it's a term often used describe God's love toward mankind. –  J.R. Feb 25 '12 at 9:52
Thanks for that nice definition, John. I agree with @J.R. though about unconditional love. Also, the word I'm looking for encompasses more than just love. The word I'm looking for describes love in such a fashion where two people love each other, but frustrations build because neither has acknowledged loving the other. –  trusktr Mar 4 '12 at 0:23

Depending on the context, you could call it a crush, particularly if you are talking about two adolescents.

A crush doesn't necessarily imply unbeknownst reciprocation; it's often one-way, and directed toward someone who is not in a position to share the attraction. Still, there would be nothing wrong with saying:

Dave and Jill both had a secret crush on each other.

I can't think of a noun with the inherent implication that neither is aware of the other's feelings, but I can understand your aversion to the word love, since love sometimes encompasses a devotion that goes beyond the initial stages of infatuation. Still, there are plenty of ways to convey the idea, without finding a single word for it:

  • Unbeknowst to each other, Dave and Jill shared a strong attraction.
  • Unbeknown to both, Dave and Jill were nursing a deep passion toward each other.

Unbeknownst and unbeknown both mean "without someone's knowledge." Perhaps that's the key adjective for the feelings you're trying to capture and express?

share|improve this answer
I don't think "crush" applies. It usually implies only one party is "smitten", plus if you said "Dave and Jill both had a secret crush" this would normally be taken to imply they both knew how the other felt, but were keeping the mutual attraction secret from everyone else. Including the word "both" doesn't really overcome that conventional interpretation. –  FumbleFingers Feb 25 '12 at 14:01
@FumbleFingers: I agree; I thought the examples in my two bullets did a better job of capturing what the O.P. was seeking. Nonetheless, I still think "secret crush" could work, assuming the sentence was put into context where the potential ambiguities you describe were not problematic. –  J.R. Feb 25 '12 at 18:35
J.R. and @FumbleFingers I agree that "Unbeknownst, unbeknown, or unacknowledged love" are very close to the word I'm looking for. Many years back I encountered a single word that means exactly what I'm looking for and along the lines of what you guys suggested except it also includes the frustration that builds from such unacknowledged love. –  trusktr Mar 4 '12 at 0:22

Skinny love: when two people love each other but are too shy to admit it but they still show it.


share|improve this answer

skinny love - n. where two people love each other but they both don't know it or haven't expressed it too each other, yet it is obvious by the way they both act .

share|improve this answer
Do you have a cultural-reference for this euphemism? –  New Alexandria Dec 5 '13 at 13:58

Platonic love is used sometimes to describe what you're saying.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.