The mistress definition, Oxford dictionary

a woman having an extramarital sexual relationship, esp. with a married man

I am looking for the male equivalent of 'mistress' as defined above. Some sources on the net come up with 'master' and 'mastress'. But I could not find both words in dictionary as male equivalent of mistress.

So, any male equivalents of mistress in formal English?

  • Just FYI, mistress itself is falling out of favor (at least in the US).
    – user13141
    Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 18:27
  • 3
    Comment because it's slang, but a kept man is used to describe a man who is being supported financially and/or sexually by non-family members.
    – SrJoven
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 14:03

6 Answers 6


Paramour may be the word you're looking for although it can be used for either sex.

an illicit lover; a person with whom someone is having a romantic or sexual relationship and especially a secret or improper relationship.

Her husband found a love letter from her paramour. source


It used to be that "master" was the word for a man who was in authority or in control, and "mistress" was the word for a woman in such a position. I presume that "mistress" came to be used for a woman that a married man was having an affair with on the idea that she is controlling and ruling him through her seductive powers. This usage has come to overshadow the literal meaning of the word, so that today if you use the word "mistress" in the old sense people will almost inevitably think of the sexual connotation. Like, today if you say, "Fred is the master of the soccer team", people would understand you to mean that he is a coach or star player or whatever who exercises a high degree of control. But if you say, "Sally is the mistress of the soccer team", people would think you meant that she was having an affair with every man on the team.

I once read a post on a web site in which the woman who ran it said she didn't like being called by the masculine term "web master", but when she called herself the "web mistress" the guys in her organization had way too much fun with the term.

In common use, the male equivalent of "mistress" is "lover" or "boyfriend". Those aren't exact equivalents, though. "Mistress" is usually used for the unmarried girlfriend of a married man who is supporting her financially. "Lover" could apply to either sex with no implication whether either is married to someone else. "Boyfriend" indicates a romantic relationship that may or may not involve illicit sex, again without any implication of the marital status of either party.

I can't help but add: I once heard a comedian comment that he stumbled across the word "nymphomaniac" in a dictionary, and it defined it as "a female who is completely obsessed with sex". So, he said, he wondered if there was an equivalent term for a male who is completely obsessed with sex. He did a little research and he found that there is. The word is "man".

  • 1
    +0.5 for that little chuckle, and +0.5 for reminding us why there is no male equivalent to the special sense of "mistress" as a gender-specific term for "extra-marital bit on the side". Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 21:32
  • "Satyr" is the term, FYI
    – JCL1178
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 10:40
  • @JCL1178 "Satyr" is not a word in common use with this meaning. Perhaps there is some group or subculture where it is understood to mean this, but to most Americans, at least, if you said, "Bob is Sally's satyr", they would have no idea what you meant. I just looked it up on thefreedictionary.com and the closest definition to this is "a man who has strong sexual desires", which is not at all the same as a mistress.
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 1:32
  • @jay I was responding to the "male version of nymphomaniac" part of your answer, not the "male version of mistress"
    – JCL1178
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 2:05
  • 1
    @JCL1178 Ah, well, maybe then. At least both "nymph" and "satyr" are from Greek mythology.
    – Jay
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 21:24

The word normally used is lover, even though it can apply to both men and women.

  • 2
    @JasperLoy I think technically, the adulterer's partner in crime is the fornicator.
    – user13141
    Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 18:26
  • But a significant other can also be referred to as a lover, so often "lover" requires some context to imply infidelity.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 23:12
  • @Jefromi: Does anyone ever use 'significant other' without quotation marks? Commented Nov 24, 2011 at 7:46
  • I wonder if the phrase with quotation marks is considered formal. Is it?
    – andydraif
    Commented Nov 24, 2011 at 7:48

I was thinking


  1. an illicit lover, especially of a married person.

  2. any lover.



(esp. in Italy during the 17th and 18th centuries) an escort or lover of a married woman.

  • 1
    Please elaborate perhaps with links to dictionary definitions. Commented Aug 8, 2012 at 6:35
  • 2
    Wow: excellent find on cicisbeo! Though I have never encountered the word before, apparently it has been used.
    – feetwet
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 21:25
  • 1
    I first encountered the word cicisbeo in Sheridan's 1777 play The School for Scandal, in which I appeared over 40 years ago. LADY TEAZLE: . . . you know I admit you as a Lover no farther than Fashion requires. SURFACE: True—a mere Platonic Cicisbeo, what every London wife is entitled to. Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 13:05


A young man paid or financially supported by a woman, typically an older woman, to be her escort or lover.


The term toy boy is in extensive popular use, though it does suggest a male who is younger than the woman.

  • The reverse order "boy toy" is also used. I found a discussion on WordReference Forums that indicates that "toy boy" is more common in Britain, while "boy toy" may be more common in the United States.
    – herisson
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 21:54

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