The expression 'a Romeo' is used to refer to:

"a lover, passionate admirer, seducer of women," 1766, from the name of the hero in Shakespeare's tragedy "Romeo and Juliet" (1590s).

From Etymonline

It appears that "Juliet" is not used to refer to the female counterpart, a beautiful devoted lover.

Is there a name used to refer to a gentle, devoted female lover in the same way as Romeo is?

EDIT: Sorry if the question is not clear enough, I am not looking for the name of a female equivalent of Romeo, but for the "female equivalent of Juliet", if a stereotyped version of her exists , like in the case of Romeo.


10 Answers 10


A Penelope is defined as "as faithful wife" (here). It can probably be used more loosely to mean any faithful female lover. It comes from ancient Greek mythology; Penelope was the wife of Odysseus.

Unlike Romeo, which often (but not always) suggests that the male pursues multiple women (cf. Don Juan or Lothario), Penelope suggests a woman who is faithful to a single man.

As to the question of why "Juliet" didn't take off like "Romeo," it's hard to say. I doubt that any answer would amount to more than armchair speculation.

  • 36
    No, it is not common.
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 20:20
  • 5
    I think you could say "as faithful as Penelope" to get your meaning across.
    – AllInOne
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 22:40
  • 7
    Penelope is older than Juliet... I wonder if this is a simple case of blocking.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 5:02
  • 3
    @Saturana, I do remember hearing "She's a real Penelope!" in some classical Hollywood movies (maybe said by Mickey Rooney?), but that means the term's at best around 60-70 years out of date... Commented May 19, 2016 at 7:27
  • 8
    Odd that you'd say that "a Romeo" refers to someone who pursues multiple women, when the character of Romeo in the play does not actually do that at all. I always thought that it just meant "a charming, handsome young man". Unlike, say, Don Juan or Casanova, who are much more well known as philanderers.. Commented May 19, 2016 at 16:53

It is the atypical nature of a character that makes for an informative literary eponym.

In this context, I think the thing that makes Romeo remarkable is not the fact that he fell in love with Juliet but that he is first introduced as being madly, passionately in love with someone else. It is only while trying to court Rosaline that he meets Juliet. He again falls madly, passionately in love, promptly forgetting about his previous infatuation. Indeed, based upon his mood and the apparent ignorance of his cousin, it seems he is only recently in love with Rosaline herself.

It is my understanding that it is this tendency to fall easily in and out of love that is being commented upon when someone is described as "a Romeo".

In a broader context, Romeo and Juliet are most remarkable for the doomed nature of their love, but this has given rise to terms describing the couple, rather than either individual, e.g. "star-crossed lovers". Another interpretation would be that Romeo and Juliet are remarkable for the depth of their love. However such an interpretation would seem to contrast with and belittle one's own experience of love. Rather than diminish their own relationships, I suspect that most people imagine that they love their partners as much as Romeo and Juliet loved each other, and that the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is driven more by intolerance and cruel fate than by some inherently atypical nature of their love.

In this respect, Juliet's love for Romeo would not be remarkable enough to coin a new term.

  • 13
    Other major difference: Romeo committed suicide while Juliet was still alive, because he's too impulsive to even check her pulse or whatever people did in Shakespeare's time. He basically just looks at her and drinks poison, IIRC. What a chump. Commented May 19, 2016 at 20:13
  • 1
    @PeterCordes that's Italians for you... :-)
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 18:13

I question the premise of your question. Perhaps you are just looking in a skewed dictionary:


The perfect girl. She will light up your life from the moment you meet her.

She's smart but not nerdy, hot but not slutty. Beautiful body and a gorgeous smile, and always up for a good time. A Juliet will be the best girlfriend/friend you will ever have, she's the girl you will want to make your wife.

Sexy, athletic, intelligent, loving, and knows how to party. She may seem intimidating, but that is only because she knows what she wants, and knows she needs a real man.

Sure, the source above is Urban Dictionary, but at the very least it reflects actual usage to some extent. The entries are created by users, and there are several entries for Juliet, which might indicate a significant amount of common usage.

As I mentioned in my comment, I've been searching ngrams and the Internet in general in different ways, and despite the situation in the quoted dictionary, there seem to be plenty of uses of "my Juliet" or "she's my Juliet", etc., and it doesn't seem like using Romeo in the same way is significantly more common.

Also, Juliet (from Wiktionary)

  1. A woman who is or is with a great lover.
  2. By analogy with the Shakespearean character, a woman who is in love with a man from a family, party, or country opposing that of her own.

It seems like the "reputable" dictionaries that come from the age of print do not have a definition for Juliet equivalent to their definitions for Romeo, but the crowdsourced online dictionaries do. Perhaps the culture on the two terms is currently in flux, and the older dictionaries are not caught up.

Interesting source (Bartleby): Juliet

Daughter of Lady Capulet, and “sweet sweeting” of Romeo, in Shakespeare’s tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. She has become a household word for a lady-love.

  • 4
    @Saturana So are you saying as soon as someone mentions "Romeo", any listeners are most likely to think of Shakespeare's Romeo, but not necessarily so with "Juliet"? There's something to that, if for no other reason than the fact that Juliet is still fairly common name, whereas I can't think of anyone actually named Romeo. Still, if I hear the name Juliet used in any way that doesn't seem to be calling someone by name (e.g., "a Juliet"), I'm not going to think of anyone other than Shakespeare's Juliet. I expect I'm not unusual in that way. Commented May 19, 2016 at 18:02
  • 7
    In my experience, Urban Dictionary entries for personal names are mostly garbage.
    – herisson
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 18:37
  • 1
    Oh no! Actual usage? You mean like my comment on Silenus's answer? ;)
    – Mazura
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 18:48
  • 1
    There is some difference to how they are used though. Of course, any name can be used as an allusion to the famous person with that name. I could refer to my brainy friend as "a Hermione" and you're expected to get the Harry Potter reference. But if I say to my friend "Hey Romeo, stop talking to that girl and go get us those beers," then I'm directly referring to his attempts at romance, and nobody would expect his name to actually be Romeo. I don't think it works for Juliet. If you call any random woman "Juliet" people will just think you said the wrong name. Commented May 19, 2016 at 20:25
  • 1
    Urban Dictionary entries for names are usually written about specific people the submitters know: they're love letters and insults, not definitions. Commented May 21, 2016 at 4:57

Asking "why isn't there X" is often unanswerable. Why isn't there a word for female cousin distinct from male cousin, like brother is distinct from sister? Why isn't there a good gender-neutral pronoun we can use for humans? etc.

In this case, I'd hazard that the answer is "sexism", specifically, social attitudes that praise a man for chasing women but scold a woman for chasing men. A seducer of women is a Romeo. A seducer of men is a slut. All women are expected to be gentle, devoted lovers to their husbands. Women were expected to be virgins on their wedding day. Men, not so much. Maybe if enough English-speaking people learn to stop slut-shaming, we'll eventually agree on a positive word for a "female Romeo".

  • 23
    a seducer of women is more commonly referred to as a Lothario (and that is not a particularly positive term). Romeo refers to a man who romantically pursues a woman, not many (though he may be doing so, it is not the intent of the epithet). Give over with the social commentary on sexism based on a modern day bias.
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 7:50
  • 16
    A seducer of women is a womanizer, a philanderer, a lecher. Come on
    – Au101
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 8:00
  • 4
    "Is there a female equivalent of 'a Romeo'?" is an interesting question (maybe ask it?), complicated a little since there seem to be several competing definitions or understandings of "a Romeo". I always understood it to mean a man who wantonly acts in a way causing women to become dangerously romantically obsessed - in which case possible female equivalents could include analogies to Helen of Troy (positive), "man-eater" (positive or negative depending on context), or more negatively, various terms for male anatomy suffixed with "-tease". Commented May 19, 2016 at 15:23
  • 3
    Surely "Casanova" is used much more commonly for a "seducer of women" than "Lothario", and certainly much more often than "Romeo". Usually "Romeo" us used to tease a (young, naive) man for being overly infatuated/obsessed with a (possibly inappropriate) woman.
    – S. G.
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 18:42
  • 6
    There is a perceived need for recently-coined gender-neutral pronouns. I was a big fan of 'singular they', until I realized he already is a gender-neutral pronoun, some people just have a hard time perceiving it as such, and knee-jerk themselves into a frenzy.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 20:24

To make even a plausible guess at the answer to this question, you would need to learn an enormous amount about the sociology and history of the English-speaking world, from the 1590s through today. Here are just a few examples of things that might be relevant.

  • In many societies, past and present, women and men were and are expected to approach romance in very different ways. The evolution of language reflects this.
  • Was English Renaissance theater largely a guy thing? We apparently know very little about Elizabethan theater audiences, so I guess it could have been. There aren't even any contemporary paintings you can turn to for a glimpse of audience demographics: a painting the V&A calls "one of the first attempts to depict the interior of the first Globe theatre" was done 150 years after the fact, and its painter basically just made everything up.
  • Although Juliet hasn't become part of English in the way you suggest, she has left her mark in names like Juliet cap and Juliet balcony. These names, however, were coined much more recently than Romeo. The OED shows Romeo being used in the way you describe as early as the mid-1700s, and possibly even as far back as the mid-1500s—before Romeo and Juliet was written! (Wait, how is that possible?) On the other hand, the OED only shows uses of Juliet cap starting in the early 1900s, and it doesn't even have an entry for Juliet balcony.
  • 3
    It's possible that Romeo was used in that way before the play, and that Shakespeare gave him that name because of the existing word. Like if the word "John" meant "Someone who visits prostitutes", but a famous movie or play names a prostitute-user "John" for that reason, and 400 years from now that movie is still popular, and people just assume that it coined that usage. (That's less likely to occur now that we have such extensive recorded language for this era, but you get the idea) Commented May 19, 2016 at 14:18
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 Read the link in the answer. :) Shakespeare adapted the story; he didn't create it.
    – reirab
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 3:36
  • @reirab Oh, I know he adapted the story from something that came earlier, that's common knowledge. ... oh, you're trying to tell me that you already knew how it was possible. Sorry, the link colour on this website doesn't contrast enough with the text colour for me to easily see the links, I missed your subtle joke. Commented May 20, 2016 at 3:55

femme fatale:

"a very beautiful woman that men find sexually attractive but who brings them trouble or unhappiness"

(Oxford Learner's Dictionaries) http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/femme-fatale?q=femme+fatale

(as opposed to romeo: "a young male lover or a man who has sex with a lot of women" - same source)

  • 2
    Very different from a Juliet, is she?
    – user 66974
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 20:24
  • 3
    @Saturana The female equivalent of a Romeo - Love 'em and leave 'em. Commented May 18, 2016 at 20:33
  • 4
    I don't think Romeo ever intentionally abandoned Juliet... Commented May 19, 2016 at 1:26
  • 3
    @JeremyFriesner The definition of a Romeo provided above is the current definition of a Romeo, according to Oxford Learner's Dictionaries, the male counterpart of a femme fatale, and not a reference to the character of Romeo in Shakespeare, though the origin of the expression is the Shakespearean tragedy. Commented May 19, 2016 at 4:54
  • 8
    @JeremyFriesner - but he forgot about Rosaline pretty quickly... Commented May 19, 2016 at 10:24

Name used to refer to a gentle, devoted female lover in the same way as Romeo is?

Seeing as how the play ends, a Siren or Calypso both seem appropriate.

The term "siren song" refers to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad conclusion.


Though I think it is a bit off on the exact same meaning, Jezebel is often used to refer to women who are seductive and/or promiscuous. It is a very old slur and thus has had many meanings, but today, it seems to me, it is mostly in reference to women who sleep around, steal husbands, and/or practice seduction to get what they want. Women are sometimes called "Jezebel" or are talked about as if they are "a Jezebel".

  • 2
    It's important to note that "a Jezebel" satisfies the OP's inclusion of the indefinite article "a" and the name Jezebel being used as a noun, similar to "a Romeo". There are cultural and evolutionary explanations as to why promiscuity is viewed differently in men and women. Considering this, Jezebel is the most fitting answer.
    – djv
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 15:31

Romeo is the more active figure in the original play, he is memorably in love with being in love, and pursues his passions, whatever the cost. Juliet is a more passive, and thus less distinctive figure.

It's worth noting that the complete phrase "Romeo and Juliet" does appear in language as denoting a matched set of devoted lovers, but that the term "Romeo" by itself implies passion, not devotion. This matches the original character, who begins the play infatuated with a different girl than Juliet. Accordingly, the term "Romeo" is often used with a hint of mockery to describe someone with more romantic passion than sense. Since Juliet was a more level-headed character, it wouldn't make sense to use her name in the same manner.

  • 2
    I wouldn't really describe either character as 'level-headed,' though I suppose Juliet was less the opposite of level-headed than Romeo. Level-headed people normally don't get married after a few days or commit suicide shortly thereafter.
    – reirab
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 3:42

The main reason there isn't an opposite phrase or word to 'Romeo,' is simply the denial of women, until very recent times, of independent sexuality. A woman who is overly romantic, one who has a number of lovers or who is in love with love itself, would historically be branded a whore, or hussy, or wanton woman, all derogatory, of course. Romeo, in the play itself, isn't a young man who 'fools around,' actually. He is devoted wholly to Juliet. He is romantic in nature, but in the sense of young first love, being overwhelmed by the feeling. He's the archetypal young lover - Juliet is as well, but less so than Romeo - she has more sensible reservations, as women of the time were supposed to have in order to be respectable.

  • 1
    That could very well be, but is pure speculation at this point.
    – Joachim
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 0:05
  • How do you mean? Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 0:56
  • Your answer is opinion rather than fact, and as such not really allowed on the StackExchange platform.
    – Joachim
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 15:45
  • You're saying that it's an opinion not a fact that women until recent times have been denied by society the same degree of sexual freedom that men have had? Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 16:18
  • No, I was saying your answer - i.e. the relationship between the status of women and the absence of the idiom 'a Juliet' - is opinion (or conjecture), not sexism.
    – Joachim
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 22:07

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