Do women tend to use the word lovely more often than men do?

And also, should men rather avoid using this word when describing something they liked?

Meta: I hope this question doesn't sound too sexist (though to an extent it is, of course).

  • 5
    I don't have a reference, but I hear British men saying it far more often than American men.
    – Gob Ties
    Jan 17, 2014 at 20:30
  • 2
    Whether a man should avoid using a word that may to some extent be other-gender-identified is strictly situational, and the starting point for making that judgment is to ask, what are you afraid of, anyway? Along those lines, I wouldn't recommend using the term "sweetie pie" in a biker bar—whether the other patrons are male or female.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 17, 2014 at 20:30
  • 1
    Why close? It's not entirely about opinion.
    – Kris
    Jan 18, 2014 at 7:03
  • 1
    The first sentence articulates an empirical question that has a definite answer. That second sentence may, arguably, be construed as soliciting opinions, but it does not make the question as a whole 'opinion-based'. It would incidentally be interesting (but perhaps even more difficult) to explore how the male-female difference here interacts with the British-American difference, hinted at in the first comment, above.
    – jsw29
    Apr 15 at 16:16

2 Answers 2


Yes, according to renowned linguist Robin Lakoff in her seminal book Language and Woman's Place lovely is indeed a word that tends to be used more by women than by men:

There is a group of adjectives which have, besides their specific and literal meanings, another use, that of indicating the speaker's approbation or admiration for something. Some of these adjectives are neutral as to sex of speaker: either men or women may use them. But another set seems, in its figurative use, to be largely confined to women's speech. Representative lists of both types are below:

neutral: great, terrific, cool, neat
women only: adorable, charming, sweet, lovely, divine

On Gender-Related Differences in Daily Communication of English is a good overview of Lakoff's work and of more recent research.


If this site (EL&U) is representative of the whole of English, then yes. Women do use it; I can't recall reading one example of a man using it. (Not that it hasn't been used; I just haven't seen it.) However, Benedict Cumberbatch swears a lot and still says lovely.

Which I think is lovely, of course.

  • 1
    Well, I will tell you here and now how lovely I find the personalised artistic device that you use on this site. So - you have now heard a male person use the word. I don't actually believe that this can possibly be the first time. –
    – WS2
    Jan 17, 2014 at 21:35
  • 1
    @Susan: Methinks the lady doth protest too much! To recast a cliche, I bet all the gentlemen say that to you! Jan 17, 2014 at 22:15
  • @FumbleFingers - I know the google-fu is strong in you; it seems the lady-fu is as well. ;) Jan 17, 2014 at 22:29
  • @WS2 - same to you! ;) Jan 17, 2014 at 22:34
  • 1
    I'm relieved you saw the funny side of that! Actually, we taught my (only) son to use p**** when he was little, but presumably because they weren't particularly relevant at the time, we never really bothered with tes****es*. He's over 25 now, but more than once in the past decade I've been (slightly) embarrassed on his behalf if, say, he catches a tennis ball in the nether regions. He automatically exclaims "Argh! That got me right in the p**!". At his age, I think I'd rather hear gs or ns. Jan 17, 2014 at 23:25

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