While doing homework for "Introduction to Mathematical Thinking" course on Coursera I came across the phrase "Everybody loves a lover". At first I thought that the meaning of it is straight-forward, but then the task description said it was an idiomatic expression. The exact problem description was:

Which one of the following means "Everybody loves a lover", where L(x,y) means (person) x loves (person) y and a lover is defined to be someone in a mutual loving relationship? (If English is not your native language, you might want to discuss this sentence with a native English speaker before you answer. It's an idiomatic expression.)

I couldn't find the meaning of it on the Internet, so I'm asking here: what is the exact meaning of this expression?

  • Please add in the context where you read the phrase. Also, why doesn't Everybody Loves a Lover answer your question? Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 15:39
  • It means exactly what it says. Loving people tend to be charming (except when they're your jowly & drooling older relatives who always want to kiss & otherwise slobber all over you), and lovers, like Don Juan, seem to be irresistible: If so many other women love him, there must be something special about him, so I'll love him too.
    – user21497
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 15:40

4 Answers 4


The expression itself seems to mean that it’s easier to be friends with a friendly person, and it’s easier to be in love with one who is loving.

However, the word lovers also is used to refer to people in a sexual relationship. So, while I’m loving toward my children, I’m not my the lover of my children – not in that sense of the word.

However, the word lover can also mean someone who enjoys something very much. I can be a lover of homemade ice cream, or classical music.

I think the caution in your book is referring to this dual sense of the word – that is, lover doesn't always merely mean someone in a mutual loving relationship. Sometimes the word lover can be used innocuously (like, I’m a lover of history), and sometimes scandalously (as in, I’m the lover of my wife's cousin).

From Macmillan:

1) someone who is in a loving or sexual relationship with another person
a. the sexual partner of someone who is married to another person
b. used for talking about someone's sexual performance

2) someone who likes or enjoys something very much

From Collins:

1) a person, now esp. a man, who has an extramarital or premarital sexual relationship with another person
2) often plural either of the two people involved in a love affair
3) someone who loves a specified person or thing ⇒ a lover of music
(in combination) ⇒ a music-lover, a cat-lover

I think the book simply doesn't want someone to use the word in an embarrassing way.


It means that those in love are popular because, suppsoedly, they spread their happiness all around them. It's not really an idiom, because the meaning can be deduced from knowing the individual words. (What's it doing in a mathematics course, by the way?)

  • 1
    Wasn't Doris Day a mathematician? Or did she just have good numbers?
    – user21497
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 15:41
  • Is not really a maths course (I'm doing it too). It's an introduction to the way of thinking in mathematics (as the name suggests). A great deal of it is learning to use formal symbolic math to express natural language sentences, particularly it's logic structure.
    – Juan
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 14:09

It would be simpler if you had included "the following" answers , not least because we don't know what notation you use. But probably what the book is looking for is If (for some x and y) Lxy and Lyx then (for all z) Lzx. That isn't exactly what most people mean by the phrase, so it would be a good introduction to the perils of translation between mathematics and natural language.

  • My question is about the idiom itself, not the mathematics. I just gave the full task description for context. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 16:06

I'm not an English native speaker, I speak Russian. So, i tried to find the meaning of the phrase in an idiomatic vocabulary. I foud the phrase "All the world loves a lover", and the closest Russian meaning is "Относись к другим так же, как хочешь, чтобы отнеслись к тебе", which means share with others those feelings which you would like to be shared with you. Let's return to our original phrase "All the world" was changed to "Everybody" just to confuse students. "all the world"="everybody"="anybody", that means there exist a man, which loves someone and other person loves him too (mutual relationship), so everybody likes (loves) it.

  • Bringing Russian into it is a little confusing.
    – deadly
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 15:16
  • @deadly but it can be very helpful for the Russians (like me)!
    – QtRoS
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 14:37

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