I've noticed that many old (often folk) songs use the terms 'true love' together (as opposed to just 'love')? Is it to differentiate it from 'false love', due to metric or syllabic reasons, for emphasis or perhaps some other reason reason entirely?

I've also noticed that 'true love' generally refers to a person, not the abstract concept of love. Could it be out of lack for a better term to refer to one's sweetheart?


"for then, she'll be a true love of mine" - Scarborough Fair

"I sat there with my true love" - The wind that shakes the barley

"Black is the colour of my true loves hair" - Black is the colour

"I wish i sat on my true love's knee..." - Siuil a Run.

  • I assume it's real, heart-felt love, not "love" between arranged marriages, etc. – Azor Ahai Jun 7 '16 at 22:17
  • Do you mean that this term is used in British folk songs to a much greater extent than in folks songs from elsewhere? If so, where's your evidence? – TrevorD Jun 7 '16 at 22:32
  • @TrevorD : No, a geooographical juxtaposition was not my intention, i just know british folk songs better and i know that the term is also popular when translating old songs from gaelic to english. Could be used elsewhere too, but i'm interested in the english term, so please remain within the domain of english speaking countries. I deleted the geographical part in the question, just to be sure. The point of the question, i'm not sure if i made it clear enough, is time-related. Why is it used less today and what difference in usage could there be? – Matthaeus Jun 8 '16 at 8:20
  • IMO, it's used less today, because the demographic of your users haven't even "loved and lost" yet, let alone have any idea why there's often an adjective before the word love. Also, what is 'fake love'? – Mazura Jun 8 '16 at 11:39
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    It's a cliche, basically. It could just as well have been some other word but that's what's made it to "top cliche status". – Max Williams Jul 27 '16 at 12:51

I was interested in your claim that:

Interestingly enough, it [true love] was used to refer to a person most of the time

So I did a comparison search using Ngram:

enter image description here

It is unlikely that true love refers to a person most of the time based on the above (if I am understanding what you mean correctly).

  • this is a cool tool. The usage has dropped by a third though. The other two expressions have dropped to, 'my true love' being used almost half as often, if this tool is to be believed. Would you please explain to me how this makes it unlikely that the expression was used to refer to a person? – Matthaeus Jun 11 '16 at 22:25
  • @Matthaeus All results contained under "my true love" are also expressed under the umbrella, more broad term "true love". Hence, we can search both these expressions up, to which we can also see the relatively large difference between 'my true love' and 'true love'. From this, we can make an educated assumption that it is not being used to refer to a person the most of the time, given it is a small constituent within the search result of"true love". Hope this is clear. – silenceislife Jun 13 '16 at 8:22

"True love" has a better ring to it than all this:

Triangular theory of loveWiki

Consummate love is the complete form of love, representing an ideal relationship which people strive towards. Of the seven varieties of love, consummate love is theorized to be that love associated with the "perfect couple."

According to Sternberg, these couples will continue to have great sex fifteen years or more into the relationship, they cannot imagine themselves happier over the long-term with anyone else, they overcome their few difficulties gracefully, and each delight in the relationship with one other.

However, Sternberg cautions that maintaining a consummate love may be even harder than achieving it. He stresses the importance of translating the components of love into action. "Without expression," he warns, "even the greatest of loves can die." Thus, consummate love may not be permanent. If passion is lost over time, it may change into companionate love.


It's because true love is an expression that means "love that lasts forever."

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    Interestingly enough, it was used to refer to a person most of the time, as opposed to the concept of love. I added a few examples to my question. – Matthaeus Jun 8 '16 at 8:22

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