Lover? Significant Other? Boyfriend? Lady-friend? These terms each connote something slightly different in their attempt to describe a nonmarital relationship between two consenting adults. Seldom do you hear the synonymous word paramour, but this term is in vogue in legal circles at the moment. In fact, recent Supreme Court opinions have used this word when describing love triangles in certain court cases.
Circa 1300, the word paramour had religious connotations. Men might use the word when referring to the Virgin Mary, and women would use the word in reference to Christ. Stemming from the French phrase “par amour”, or “with desire”, the noun version of the word eventually came to describe an illicit lover. In contemporary times, the word mistress gained popularity as the term of art used to describe a woman having an adulterous relationship with a married man. A male equivalent for the term does not exist, really. The old term “fancy man” for a male lover is difficult to imagine gaining linguistic popularity.
So we find ourselves back to the antiquated, but useful term, paramour, which has come to essentially mean the following: a person with whom one is having a romantic or sexual relationship, especially an illicit one. Whether you have a paramour yourself, or just think it is fun to say the word, the term’s newfound popularity in legal circles is intriguing.