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 Nov 23 '11 at 18:27
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    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 Nov 7 '14 at 14:03

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".

  • +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". – FumbleFingers Nov 23 '11 at 21:32

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

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    @JasperLoy I think technically, the adulterer's partner in crime is the fornicator. – user13141 Nov 23 '11 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 Nov 23 '11 at 23:12
  • @Jefromi: Does anyone ever use 'significant other' without quotation marks? – Barrie England Nov 24 '11 at 7:46
  • I wonder if the phrase with quotation marks is considered formal. Is it? – andydraif Nov 24 '11 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.

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    Please elaborate perhaps with links to dictionary definitions. – coleopterist Aug 8 '12 at 6:35
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    Wow: excellent find on cicisbeo! Though I have never encountered the word before, apparently it has been used. – feetwet May 13 '15 at 21:25
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    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. – Brian Donovan Apr 24 '19 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 Sep 4 '16 at 21:54

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