I must clarify, when I say 'crush', I mean the subject of an unrealistic, one-sided infatuation. For example, it can be used in this sentence: 'My celebrity crush is David Beckham.'

Could that word be interchanged for another? Preferably, can it be a word which is not necessarily too formal/complex? I've searched online for a while but can't find any synonyms for this form of 'crush.'

I want the word for a novel which is set in an old-ish fantasy period so I don't think 'crush' would feel in-place. The main character is a lower-class worker.

  • 2
    Why do you need a different word (especially if you want it to be "not too formal/complex"). Luckily there is a word for what you are describing. It's crush.
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 18:43
  • I am writing a novel which is set in an old-ish fantasy period so I don't think 'crush' would feel in-place. Also, the main character is a lower-class worker so it wouldn't make sense for her to know too many formal words. Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 18:51
  • 3
    That is important information and should be included in the question.
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 18:52
  • Although the first citation (1891) in the full OED is over a decade later than crush, I think the noun usage pash has more of a "Victorian" flavour today. Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 18:55
  • 3
    @MatthewBain- Welcome. It's not so much justification as it is clarification that helps us to identify a suitable word. Without that info, crush would seem appropriate. This information rules that out and helps point us in a better direction. With that in mind, would you say your "old-ish" fantasy time period aligns more closely with early 1900's, 1800's, 1700's?
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 19:22

6 Answers 6


Try yearning It would fit in a fantasy story in a long-ago setting.

Gwyneth had a powerful yearning for Sir Mortimer, a yearning she knew she must keep to herself. (made up)

Yearning, from The Free Dictionary

A persistent, often melancholy desire; a longing

Example, from Henry David Thoreau.

I do not know of any poetry to quote which adequately expresses this yearning for the Wild

To substantiate that it is an old word with an old flavor, see Etomonline

yearning.yearning (n.) Old English gierning, verbal noun from yearn (v.).

yearn (v.) English giernan (West Saxon), geornan (Mercian), giorna (Northumbrian) "to strive, be eager, desire, seek for, beg, demand," from Proto-Germanic *gernjan (source also of Gothic gairnjan "to desire," German begehren "to desire;" Old High German gern, Old Norse gjarn "desirous," Old English georn "eager, desirous," German gern "gladly, willingly"), from PIE root *gher- "to like, want"

  • I love this. Perhaps a quick explanation of gerunds? +1 anyway Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 2:58
  • Having old roots doesn't give a word an old flavor. Consider words like yellow, comb, boat, and ice; just as old of a pedigree, yet not archaic in the least.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 8:59

While not a noun, you could use the verb moon

Act in a dreamily infatuated manner: Timothy’s mooning over her like a schoolboy

Oxford Dictionaries Online

It is often used as a phrasal verb with over and an object, although it can be used without, as in Stop mooning!

  • many fantasy novels have slightly different words anyway, to add flavor, so you could use moon as a noun and let the unfolding of the story (and perhaps someone asking "is she still mooning over him?") make it make sense. Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 22:11
  • Of course, if Timothy is mooning her then that means something else entirely. (And I haven't heard "moon" used to mean infatuation in 20-30 years.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 1:26
  • @HotLicks Inspired by his request for an old-timey term.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 2:09

Besotted would fit the context


completely in love with someone and always thinking of them : He was so completely besotted with her that he couldn't see how badly she treated him


Given the setting, the language and grammar are usually very differently formed from modern English, hence:

'I am truly besotted with Sir Beckham of Stow-on-the-Wold.'


Wandering around a thesaurus, the best I found was a synonym for beloved, lover, or passion: flame:

  1. Informal. an object of one's passionate love; sweetheart:
    He's taking out his new flame tonight.

The problem that I'm seeing is that most of the words for a target of infatuation are lacking the unrequited aspect of crush. You wouldn't take out a crush. If you are, they've stopped being a crush and moved on to being something more realistic.

Perhaps consider using the adjective unrequited in addition to or in place of whatever noun. E.g. unrequited flame or simply unrequited. Perhaps we have more time for foolish romance than our ancestors did and developed a single word (crush) for something that they would have expressed more complexly.


Maybe puppy love or calf love can apply.

puppy love, calf love

Intense but relatively shallow romantic attachment, associated with adolescents.
Then he reels off the imponderables - physical development, puppy love, adolescent angst - that can ruin even the most promising tennis career.

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/puppy-love http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/calf-love


[source: Dictionary.com.]

Adulate verb (used with object), adulated, adulating. 1. to show excessive admiration or devotion to; flatter or admire servilely.

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