[OED:] 7. Freq. as Romantic. Designating, relating to, or characteristic of a movement or style during the late 18th and 19th centuries in Europe marked by an emphasis on feeling, individuality, and passion rather than classical form and order, and typically preferring grandeur, picturesqueness, or naturalness to finish and proportion. Generally opposed to classical (see classical adj. 7).

My following questions concern only the definition 7 above: 1. Precisely which (of the many etymons with the root 'roman') were the etymon(s) of 'Romanticism'?
2. How did the etymon(s) of 'Romanticism' shift semantically into defn. 7 above?

Per Wikipedia, 'the group of words with the root "Roman" in the various European languages, such as romance and Romanesque, has a complicated history.' So the excessive number of possible etymons precludes even conjecture: is it the Latin Romanicus, Vulgar Latin *romanice scribere, Old French romanz, etc?

Etymonline and OED do not answer these questions. OED specifies the etymons only of: 'romance' (noun) (summarised in this Quora answer), and Romance (adjective) for Romance languages.

  • Your definition is from the OED's entry for romantic, not romanticism (and both of your links go to the definition for classical). The OED does have a discussion of the etymology of *romantic*—what do you find deficient about it?
    – 1006a
    Feb 12, 2018 at 15:58

2 Answers 2


The original stem is "Romant", or "in the manner of Romans".

Languages derived from Latin such as French, Italian and Spanish the term "Romant" or, in old French "Romanz" was used to describe them. Traditionally tragedies or heroic stories would still be presented in Latin or Greek (classics) while other fantasies (including love stories and knight epics) would be presented in Romanz.

Eventually the term was distilled to simply refer to stories which concentrated on aspects of love.

That gives you the root of the movement referred to as "Romanticisim".

  • Thanks, but can you please explain and explicate how That gives you the root of the movement referred to as "Romanticisim".? Romanticism does not engage only with love?
    – user50720
    Feb 27, 2016 at 6:24

My understanding is that Romanticism, a term which I believe was first used by the early German Romantics, comes from the 'roman courtois', or the popular courtly love books of the Middle Ages (France mainly I presume). The Romantic period, ie around 1800-1850 across Europe, was characterized by a longing for that past era, the Middle Ages. The Romantics looked back to that period of chivalry and tradition as a lost gloried past, in comparison to their more recent history of industrial capitalism and the Age of Reason.

I tried and could not find the citation for the above information but rest assured that it was likely from one of these trustworthy sources: Arnold Hauser, MH Abrams, Maurice Cranston (all of whom know I have recently consulted on the subject of Romantic Art).

  • 1
    You may find support for this answer in Wikipedia, Medievalism. I suggest you look at the section on Romanticism in this article and add what you can to your answer. We need more than your assurance -- although this doesn't mean we doubt you.
    – ab2
    Aug 10, 2016 at 3:18

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