I'm looking for a word that describes more than a friend and less than a boyfriend. That is, describing the early stages of a romantic interest.

E.g. suppose a woman meets a colleague at work and they are attracted romantically. I want to describe this as more than "Her friend John..." or "Her colleague John...".

I'm looking for "Her _____ John..." to imply a romantic future and clear (mutual) interest, but they've just met and tension is still building.

To elaborate based on comments:

  • This is an omniscient narrator, for something like a blurb, where you're trying to get info across succinctly yet tantalizingly.
  • Context is mid-twenties colleagues in a US company.
  • "Crush" works pretty well (even though it doesn't convey the mutuality of it).
  • The French use mon petit chou 'my little cabbage' for that purpose. I've always thought that (or something close to it, depending on vegetation) would work in English. Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 21:16
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    It seems rude to use any term until she and John are in a relationship. There are a billion different possible words that might apply, each with their own connotations and shades of meaning: crush, hookup, beau, heartthrob, object of desire, intended, special friend, fuckbuddy, sweetie, lovebird, honey, boo... You'll have to be much more specific about their precise relationship, age, whether the term is intended to be neutral/patronising/derogatory/affectionate, what particular country/region/culture/ethnicity you're all in, etc.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 21:56
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    One of the difficulties is that the defining quality of this proto-relationship is that it has not yet been defined. As such, there are many words that describe a one-way interest (e.g. crush), but few terms that I know of in English for a member of a couple defined by requited, mutual, interest. You'd do best to just reword to describe the relationship: "She's bringing John. They're not officially going out, but they're both interested in each other." Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 22:19
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    I think "crush" is a common word for someone you'd like to have a romantic relationship with.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 22:41
  • Based on the described situation, I suggest "empathetic friend". However, it can be used for other scenarios and cases!
    – Eilia
    Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 13:43

3 Answers 3


The word "prospect" can be used to denote something or someone that is being evaluated for possibly filling some role. In this case, you can say "romantic prospect".


It means something slightly different when used in the past tense, but when used in the present tense, I believe fling may fit your usage. Dalliance may be better suited to your usage if you want a consistent past and present tense meaning. I've also seen the word flirtation used, but it sounds too constructed for common usage IMO. These words describe the relationship, not the people in them though. If you want something to describe the guy in the fling, then hookup (which can describe either the relationship or a person in the relationship) works. E.g.

Her hookup John...

Which of course implies that they have had some sort of encounter already.


A suitor means someone who is suitable for love in the marriage sense. Someone who would be approved by family and community and has something to offer (my grandmother would say). According to google dictionary, a suitor is: a man who pursues a relationship with a particular woman, with a view to marriage. Suitors may also be a prospective buyer of a business or corporation. Also in the Disney movie, Brave, there is a scene where the princess has many suitors. Which is a common idea not too far off from the question.

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