flirt (flərt) verb: flirt; 3rd person present: flirts; past tense: flirted; past participle: flirted; gerund or present participle: flirting
1. behave as though attracted to or trying to attract someone, but for amusement rather than with serious intentions.
"it amused him to flirt with her"
synonyms: trifle with, toy with, tease, lead on
"it amused him to flirt with her" experiment with or show a superficial interest in (an idea, activity, or movement) without committing oneself to it seriously.
"a painter who had flirted briefly with Cubism"
synonyms: dabble in, toy with, trifle with, amuse oneself with, play with, tinker with, dip into, scratch the surface of
"he flirted with the methods of the neo-Impressionists"

What do you call the courtship ritual of using flirtatious behavior when it has serious intentions of attracting the object of affection for long-term romantic partnership?

Regarding the use of courtship in place of flirting:

If I want to distinguish between, for instance, *conversation to get to know her and *being supportive when something bad happens and *those little mannerisms and quirks of communication I use to show I like her romantically, then I'll want a good synonym for 'serious-minded flirting'. It includes teasing, doting, gushing, sexual innuendo, compliments, gratitude . . . a lot of things, but it's not broad enough to be courting.

And I don't want to call it flirting because that's misleading, since flirting literally means, and implies, that I'm not serious.

It just seems there should be a huge difference between leading someone on and being sincere. The action is the same, but the intention is opposite. It's different enough it needs a different word so as not to be misconstrued by incorrect usage.

And seduce doesn't really help since it's strictly about sexual activity, and the etymology and usage implies negative connotations. Enticing someone to abandon their duty is not what I'm looking for: it's already a good synonym for irresponsible flirting.

closed as off-topic by 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj, Jason Bassford, JJJ, Robusto, tchrist Aug 31 '18 at 2:29

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  • 4
    What dictionary are you quoting? That info should be in your question. – 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj Aug 25 '18 at 2:40
  • I disagree that seduction is only about sex. Merriam-Webster lists three senses of the word—only the first is related to sex specifically. – Jason Bassford Aug 25 '18 at 5:06
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    Please include a link to the source of the definition. Failure to attribute your sources may be considered as plagiarism, which is against our SE rules. Also, you might not be aware that there are strict rules for single-word-requests: "To ensure your question is not closed as off-topic, please be specific about the intended use of the word. You must include a sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used." You can add these details by clicking on the edit link. – Chappo Aug 25 '18 at 6:11
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    While this obviously isn't plagiarism, because you're not attempting to pass that definition off as your own, there are actually rules about how to reference others' material. Thank you for improving the question with your commentary, although as Chappo has commented, a sample sentence would also be helpful. – Andrew Leach Aug 25 '18 at 8:55

Flirting can be serious or innocuous. Often, flirting is the start of a more serious relationship. If you want a different word that isn't necessarily limited to flirting, I would go with courting. Per the Oxford Living Dictionaries:



  1. dated [with object] Be involved with (someone) romantically, with the intention of marrying.

    ‘he was courting a girl from the neighbouring farm’

    [no object] ‘we went to the cinema when we were courting’

    1.1 (of a male bird or other animal) try to attract (a mate).

  2. Pay special attention to (someone) in an attempt to win their support or favour.

    ‘Western politicians courted the leaders of the newly independent states’

    2.1 Try hard to win (favourable attention)

    ‘he never had to court the approval of the political elite’

Courting is all that stuff you do to make sure that when you ask them to marry you, they'll say yes.

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    Courting is just so broad, though, it encompasses flirting, but they're not synonyms. – Keito Aug 24 '18 at 21:33
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    Keito, to prevent broad answers, the single-word-request tag specifically says that you must include in your question a sentence with a blank in it where you want the requested the word to go. – 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj Aug 25 '18 at 2:41
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    @Keito But in your question you say that you don't want a synonym for flirt because it's not appropriate for the behaviour you're trying to describe. So, court not meaning the same thing as flirt would seem to be a good thing rather than a reason for dismissing it. – Jason Bassford Aug 25 '18 at 6:36

An old English word, which would be very appropriate in this context is "woo".

From Oxford Dictionaries Online (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/woo)

(dated) Try to gain the love of (someone), especially with a view to marriage.

‘he wooed her with quotes from Shakespeare’


The term I've generally encountered for this is "flirting with intent", to distinguish it from casual flirting. This usage is documented by the Social Issues Research Center at http://www.sirc.org/publik/flirt.html:

'Flirting with intent'

But flirting is also an essential element of the mate-selection process, and when you are 'flirting with intent', rather than just 'flirting for fun', you need to be a bit more selective about your choice of target.

Note that this also indicates that flirting can be either just for fun (as in the definition cited in the question) or "with intent". The word is not limited to only the "for fun" meaning.

  • Nice; I don't think either of "woo" or "court" are anywhere near specific enough, but this is. Probably English doesn't have a single word with the specific meaning the OP asked for, but this short phrase conveys it clearly even to people who haven't heard it before. Upvoted despite not being a single word. – Peter Cordes Aug 28 '18 at 6:50

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