Let's say I am in a committed relationship with a woman, but we are not married; talking about her as "my girlfriend" seems a bit silly, as it conveys the idea of something juvenile, and 1) our relationship is serious and stable and 2) while she's not old, she is definitely not a "girl" anymore.

However, we are not married, thus "my wife" would be an exaggeration; "my woman" could do, but I don't really like it, as it seems to imply an idea of possession rather than companionship. There also are "companion" and "partner", but they don't necessarily mean a romantic relationship. And, of course, "lover" seems more appropriate for a sex affair than a stable relation.

What is the right word to use here?

Also, the inverse variant (being in a committed relationship with a man who is not your husband, and calling him your "boyfriend" doesn't seem right).

marked as duplicate by Andrew Leach Mar 13 '15 at 9:12

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  • 2
    There is no great, established word for this; most people I've heard default to either girlfriend or partner. – Dan Bron Mar 13 '15 at 8:00
  • girlfriend has nothing to do with girl. – Darius Miliauskas Mar 13 '15 at 8:34
  • 1
    Mine is "my other half"... :) – Marv Mills Mar 13 '15 at 8:57
  • related (see also the linked posts) english.stackexchange.com/questions/76006/… – anemone Mar 13 '15 at 8:58
  • Cohabitant, while sounding impersonal, is a legal definition of two persons living together, having a romantic relationship, and sharing living expenses. – Chris K Jun 21 '18 at 16:07

There are a couple of terms, neither of which I really care for, but you hear them often:

  1. Significant other - works for man or woman
  2. Life partner - used often to cover all the bases of sexual orientation

They seem to also fill a need where political correctness is important, but they can be used without that factor.

By the way, in some situations and under certain laws, they are called common law husbands and wives (spouses), whether they choose to consider themselves that way or not.

  • I am not sure from which legal jurisdiction you hail, but "Common-law...", when applied to wife or husband, was removed from the British legal system quite a few years ago and no longer has any legal basis whatsoever in that jurisdiction... – Marv Mills Mar 13 '15 at 13:13
  • Significant other is what I would use to describe this. Have an up vote. The slang version of course would be "boo" or "bey". – SUM GUY Mar 13 '15 at 14:56

My father, who died last year aged 99 years and 9 months was in just such a relationship for the last thirty years of his life.

I always referred to his partner (who was a beloved member of the family), including when introducing her to people, as my father's lady-friend. Our children, when they were young called her auntie.


The Swedish language has a lot of choices for different types of relationships, but English does not. Of course the language is dynamic, and it is changing following the needs and trends in the society, so, the word could appear later as it happens in Swedish. Anyway, girlfriend is fine because the reasons you are giving is more psychological: there are no age limits to call somebody your girlfriend or boyfriend. Girlfriend has nothing to do with girl except that the latter could be the synonym in a particular context. If you live together, you are cohabitants. It is very legalistic term.

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