I want to ask someone, "Describe the perfect girlfriend/boyfriend" but I don't want to be so hetero-normative. So I'm looking for a simple gender-neutral/gender-inclusive equivalent for boyfriend/girlfriend, like 'spouse' is for wife/husband.

I can only think of:

  • Significant Other (SO)
  • Partner (not the best for just dating, though)

Those both feel kind of stiff. Are there any others that I'm not aware of, possibly more casual? Particularly ones that would be easy to explain to non-native English speakers?

  • 1
    What wrong with: Describe your best boy/girlfriend? A man or woman can have either a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and sometimes both. But a genderless noun that might work is companion. Although it's not very romantic.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 9, 2014 at 6:41
  • I want that romantic notion. Your best friend is often not the person you're romantically involved with.
    – miltonaut
    Dec 9, 2014 at 10:48
  • A boyfriend and a girlfriend are completely different from a best friend. Companion is genderless, but it lacks the sexual, romantic connotations that the former have, and it can mean a travel companion as well as a partner. For talking about someone whom you go out with and have deep romantic feelings for, it's GF and BF (for me).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 9, 2014 at 11:10
  • 4
    Lover and sweetheart, it appears to me, are the simplest and commonly recognized gender-neutral/gender-inclusive equivalent for a date/BF/GF .
    – Misti
    Dec 9, 2014 at 12:34
  • I think it depends on whether you want to hear about the expected role they should have or about what person they are; as in the person you should be with as opposed the person you want to be with, now and (maybe) tomorrow. Person is the neutral way to address the person imho.
    – user98955
    Dec 13, 2014 at 8:46

4 Answers 4


Ordan & Wintner in their study1 on representing natural gender have observed that there seems to be no neutral hypernym for the pair boyfriend/girlfriend.

MF This class includes nouns which have distinct masculine and feminine forms, but no gender neutral one.
boyfriend/girlfriend, lord/lady, male/female, prince/princess, uncle/aunt.
17 nouns are in this class.

1 Src: (pdf: 86kB) Noam Ordan and Shuly Wintner, Representing natural gender in multilingual lexical databases, Dept Comp Sc, Univ of Haifa, p3., p7.


There is squeeze in slang. Though, it is used as a sexual partner too. I don't know if there is much difference nowadays.

There is also main squeeze but it has somewhat a stronger sense than squeeze and you can call your spouse as your main squeeze too.

Main squeeze "most important person" is attested from 1896; meaning "one's sweetheart, lover" is attested by 1980. [Etymonline]

There is lover and sweetheart but they are usually used for someone more intimate and more suitable to use in longer relationships.

There is date but it is usually used for a companion of a single occasion.

Let's go with valentine.

  • The distributions of though and however are not identical. Dec 13, 2014 at 8:10

Date can be used to mean the person you are dating http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...?

"Describe the perfect date" is confusing though, as it is likely to be interpreted as "Describe what would happen on your perfect date" rather than "Describe the person who would be your perfect date."

So how about "Describe the person who would be your perfect date." or perhaps better still "What sort of person would be your perfect date?"

  • Every time I hear that, all I can think of is "April 21st. It's not too warm and not too cold. All you need is a light jacket." Or however the quote goes... XD
    – miltonaut
    Dec 10, 2014 at 1:37

Lover, (Life) Partner, SO (significant other), Bae

  • 2
    Please add references for each word/phrase.
    – CJ Dennis
    Jan 28, 2020 at 6:07

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