Suppose someone falls in love with someone who's dead, by seeing his picture or by hearing about him. What would this person or situation would be called?

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I'm not aware of a specific word or idiom in English for this particular circumstance. If I needed to describe it other than literally, and if I had the right set of readers, I would call it a Pictures of Lily situation. This being a "literary" reference to a somewhat-famous song by The Who whose first-person lyrics fit the bill precisely.

In the beginning of the song, the singer laments his inability to sleep. When his father gives him the pictures of the song's eponymous Lily, he feels better, and is able to sleep. Soon, he feels desire for Lily as a person instead of a photo, and asks his father for an introduction. His father informs him however that "Lily" has, in fact, been dead since 1929. Initially, the singer laments, but before long turns back to his fantasy.


That person would be enamored by the dead person's beauty or works. "falling in love" might be a little bit of an exaggeration here.

  • Yes "falling in love" is way exaggerated but this is actually I am speaking about :) the word for falling in love with someone who's no more. Enamoured doesn't specify that the love is for someone dead. – Ehaan Jul 14 '15 at 19:10
  • If the person is aware that their object of love is gone, they might be a necrophiliac. – Rj Geraci Jul 14 '15 at 19:17
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    Neverrrr! Necrophiliasm is about sexual attraction towards corpses!That would be extremely inappropriate. I am just talking about a situation that what if it happens someone falls for someone who's dead by chance seeing his beauty, his character and falling in such way like no more interest in anyone else thereafter. – Ehaan Jul 14 '15 at 19:24

Perhaps pining would be what you are looking for?

  • Or maybe "pinewood-boxing"? – Sven Yargs Jul 14 '15 at 23:10
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    I was thinking against the grain apparently, more along the lines of "oaking," but I woodn't know. – talrnu Jul 15 '15 at 2:37

When you saw his picture, it was love at first sight; thoughts of him possessed you.


This is a form of unrequited love: the kind that is felt for someone who can never return it. It can also be felt for the living, as is the case in the ever-popular celebrity crush - strong attraction to famous figures seen in movies or other popular media, people who are in your sight but beyond your reach.

This case in particular is a bit morbid due to the element of death. I'd therefore tend to call it a morbid crush, and perhaps describe it further as unrequited love at first sight of the deceased.


The person could said to be "devoted to the memory of..."

If you talk about the memory of someone who has died, especially someone who was loved or respected, you are referring to the thoughts, actions, by which they are remembered. ⇒ She remained devoted to his memory.


A couple of good adjectives for either the individual or their plight would be, forlorn and piteous.

forlorn adjective:

1. pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely. "forlorn figures at bus stops"

synonyms: unhappy, sad, miserable, sorrowful, dejected, despondent

2. (of an aim or endeavor) unlikely to succeed or be fulfilled; hopeless. "a forlorn attempt to escape";

synonyms: hopeless, vain, with no chance of success, (definition courtesy of Google)

piteous adjective: deserving or arousing pity.

synonyms: sad, pitiful, pitiable, pathetic, heart-rending, heartbreaking, moving, touching. (definition courtesy of Google)

  • Or other people might react differently to the situation, and describe it as "unfortunate", "hilarious", "mawkish", "tedious", or "unlikely". But I think the questioner is looking for a word characteristic of the person or the situation, not just one that describes it :-) – Steve Jessop Jul 15 '15 at 0:33
  • @Steve Jessop - is the OP, in your opinion, looking for a adjective, verb, or noun? - because, honestly I don't have a clue. In any case, as I mention in my answer, forlorn and piteous can both be applied to the individual, as well as to their plight. – user98990 Jul 15 '15 at 1:14
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    I get the impression that the questioner will take any part of speech, applied to either the person or the situation provided it sums up what has happened. But maybe I read too much into "what would this be called?", as opposed to a question like "what words would be useful in writing about this?" which your answer would most certainly provide for. It's easy to imagine there could be a word or short phrase for this, if it was a common trope in life or literature then it might be called "death-romance" or something, it just happens not to be... – Steve Jessop Jul 15 '15 at 1:16

Infatuation or, more likely Morbid Infatuation would seem likely.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infatuation

the state of being carried away by an unreasoned passion or love

In addition to "Pictures of Lilly", Marc Cohn's "Girl Of Mysterious Sorrow" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLkWW94HOTYdescribes the situation.

I'm coming to see you, tomorrow sometime
Gonna bring you some roses, gonna tear off the vines
Gonna talk to the wind that blows through the trees
Kiss you like always from down on my knees

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