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What is an ambiguous word for a romantic partner, which doesn't make it crystal clear that they are in fact a romantic partner rather than just a friend? A euphemism might be a rough approximation of this, although of course it doesn't quite fit the bill, and some are not ambiguous at all.

Genderless and gendered answers are both interesting, though I'm personally interested in one which could apply to a girlfriend.

Ideally it'd be something which leaves the possibility that it's a romantic partner open, perhaps quite strongly so. 'Friend' suffers in this respect, as it's often used to make clear that someone is "just a friend", and people have suggested to me that girlfriends or boyfriends might be offended by it.

Anyone familiar with British culture or certain subsets thereof would understand why all this is vitally important ;)

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    Ever heard of the Ummer? "Mum and dad, I'd like you to meet my um..., er......" – David Pugh Jun 1 '15 at 18:37
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    I can't back it up with links which seems to be a requirement here and don't know how it'll fly in British, but how about "companion"? It can connote a "special friend" (or the word "girlfriend/boyfriend" for people in their 40+s), or (just) a dinner or travel companion; more familiar than an acquaintance. – user662852 Jun 1 '15 at 20:54
  • I don't understand the need to be ambiguous. If you need to protect your girlfriend, then introduce her as your close friend, or "someone I've been going out with." If you are both single, what is the problem? Just call her your "girlfriend". I'm very familiar with British culture, people tend to be quite open about these matters, unless they are embarrassed. Is it a huge age difference? She's still your girlfriend! People will suss things out in the end, so you might as well be forthright. – Mari-Lou A Jun 1 '15 at 20:55
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    It's going to be either ambiguous or euphemistic, but not both. – TRomano Jun 1 '15 at 21:57
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    You realize, of course, that the more ambiguous you are, the more it piques the curiosity of the listener, and the more they will be inclined to pry. – Hot Licks Jun 1 '15 at 23:17
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As discussed in the comments above, companion

This can be a romantic companion, a dinner companion, or a travel companion. It's from the same Latin roots as "company", com panis, "with bread", so at root it's someone with whom you share meals. It's also a term used by couples that feel too aged to be comfortable with boy/girlfriend, and we know from the historical record that the Beasties are always out looking for a female companion

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For use on an ad hoc basis in some situations:

She's only his plus one tonight. I'm not sure they're seeing each other.

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I think you could get away with using partner in crime in a joking manner. It is using "partner" in a manner that would be considered playful if, in fact, the referent considers the relationship romantic. At the same time, someone outside the relationship could only guess apart from non-verbal communication. ("A wink is as good as a nudge.")

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How about Person Of Interest?

This could be a playful and vague way to describe someone that you are romantically interested in. In the US, the police use this term to describe someone involved or connected to a criminal investigation, but there is not yet enough evidence to arrest them.

You could keep the legal metaphor running thusly:

"Hey, who's that guy you came here with? Is he your boyfriend?"

"John? He's a person of interest. We had some fun last weekend, but the jury's still out."

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    Hi, selovich, and welcome to English Language & Usage. Although phrase requests and single-word requests do lend themselves to brief answers, this site much prefers answers that include a (brief) discussion of why the suggested phrase or word is suitable for the specific context that the questioner is identifies. In particular, adding a relevant definition from a reference work is an easy way to help establish the aptness of a suggested phrase or word. Please consider adding some corroborating information to your answer. Thanks! – Sven Yargs Jun 1 '15 at 19:25
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    Thanks for the feedback, Sven! I hope my elaboration is helpful! – selovich Jun 1 '15 at 21:40
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    +1 for supplementing your original answer with the additional explanation and examples. It's much more of a self-contained answer now, I think, though it would still benefit from a link to an authoritative dictionary definition of "person of interest." – Sven Yargs Jun 1 '15 at 21:56
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I think friend or good friend fit the bill if ambiguous is what you are going for.

I spent the weekend away with a friend of mine.

I spent the weekend away with a good friend of mine.

Are they lovers? Or just friends? It's not clear; it kind of hints at that, but there's plausible deniability.

Less ambiguously, you have lady friend or guy friend.

I have a lady friend coming around for dinner tonight.

Lady friend especially, is a straight up euphemism for someone you have some kind of sexual/romantic relationship with.

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This is how I might phrase a new but deepening relationship, without denying you are both romantically involved.

  • She/he is somebody who(m) I get along with.

  • [First name] is a person whose company I enjoy immensely.

  • [First name] is a close/dear friend of mine.

  • She/he is someone I (deeply) care about.

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How about playmate? (Oxford)

Used euphemistically to refer to a person’s lover

Just the right amount of naughty ;)


EDIT: For maintaining ambiguity, people go with "special friend".

But I'm sure there's something better out there

  • Ha, fun, but far from ambiguous! – tog22 Jun 1 '15 at 18:32
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    @TusharRaj In my experience, special friend drips with as much innuendo as playmate does. It's not ambiguous. You're saying this is a person you have a primarily sexual relationship with. – Dan Bron Jun 1 '15 at 19:00
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    @DanBron: I hope it doesn't prevail. That's why I said there must be something better out there. Even I'm curious! – Tushar Raj Jun 1 '15 at 19:20
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    Good edit. I seriously appreciate your sincere engagement with this site, and conscientious responses to feedback. Seriously. – Dan Bron Jun 1 '15 at 19:26
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    What about "mate" instead of playmate? – henning -- reinstate Monica Jun 1 '15 at 19:32

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