I am looking for a word to describe the situation where someone tells his/her partner that he/she wants to end the romantic relationship (whatever the reason).

The phrases I came across by searching dictionaries and this site are:

  1. She left him / *He was left by her.
  2. She ditched him / He was ditched by her.
  3. She broke his heart / He got his heart broken (by her).

My understanding is: 1 looks neutral but passive does not work. 2 looks too slangy. 3 is not one word.

Correct me if I'm wrong in the understanding above and what are common words for it (and its nominal form)?


In case anybody understand Japanese, the word I have in mind is ふる/ふられる.

  • 1
    Formal English is sensitive about romance undone and prefers roundabout euphemisms or indirect metaphors any of which usually require several words. Informal English is more thick skinned and terse, it offers "jilt", "break up", and "dump".
    – agc
    Sep 4, 2021 at 4:55
  • There are many kinds of romantic relationships, some long standing, some formal, some very casual. Are you expecting to find a single word that covers the ending of all types of romantic relationship? If you are I don't think that you will find one. A couple who had been married for decades would use a different form of words from a young couple who had been seeing each other once a week for a month.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 4, 2021 at 10:10
  • 1
    "break off the relationship" or less formally "break it off" are commonly used. Or just "end the relationship". None of these are single words though.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 4, 2021 at 10:57
  • 2
    In the U.S. I'd say "broke up with him" is most common. Less sympathetically, "dumped" is also very common. "Left" works better for a marriage or a very serious relationship with cohabitation. "Heart-breaking" can happen even if someone gets rejected before a relationship starts, so not a perfect match. And I'd agree that "He was left by her," while grammatically unobjectionable, sounds pretty awful.
    – cruthers
    Sep 4, 2021 at 16:11
  • 1
    If you said "she and her boyfriend broke up," that would just mean that the relationship ended and it doesn't indicate who dumped who. But if you said "she broke up with him," then, yes, it almost always means she dumped him, but I do think there might be a little bit of ambiguity, which people probably exploit from time to time to avoid admitting that they were the one who got dumped.
    – cruthers
    Sep 4, 2021 at 22:48

1 Answer 1


If the relationship has been formalised, the commitment greater, the terms abandon and even desert can be used:


to leave behind or run away from someone or something

[Cambridge English Dictionary; Google]

  • Within a legal context, 'spousal abandonment' refers to the deliberate abandonment of a spouse without the intention of returning.

Shawn Leamon; Divorce and Your Money'

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