Relationship terms

On June 28 of 2000, we had a poly discussion on the topic of “Degrees (or levels) of relationships”. As an opening exercise, we did a brainstorming session to come up with a list of all the words and phrases we could think of to describe different kinds and levels of relationships (deliberately leaving “relationship” a bit ambiguous, but in a poly context). We wrote them down on a whiteboard, and I promised to transcribe them right away. And here they are, only four months later! I’m so proud of myself!

At the bottom are a few additional terms that people suggested via email.

  • primary
  • secondary
  • tertiary
  • husband
  • wife
  • um-friend
    (“This is Joe, my, um, friend.”)
  • partner
  • life partner
  • housemate
  • soulmate
  • love-of-my-life
  • significant other
    (From a US Census term introduced a census or two ago: “Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters”. Heterocentric, of course.)
  • fuckmate
  • fuck buddy
  • sex toy
  • chew toy
  • boy toy
  • comet
    (somebody who comes really close for a short period of time)
  • spouse/spice
  • love, in love (not nouns, but oh well)
  • “just” friends
  • old man
  • old lady
  • friends
  • “friends”
  • close friend
  • meteor
  • true love
  • intentional immediate family
  • intentional extended family
  • sweetie
  • honey
  • ungetaken
    (this is sort of “lover-in-law”; a friend of mine [Jay’s] told me it was an Eskimo word for the lover of one’s lover, but I don’t know what specific language it is or how to spell it)
  • lovemuffin
  • kin
  • crush
  • girlfriend/boyfriend
  • fiancé(e)
  • somebody I’m seeing
  • coparent
  • family
  • tribe
  • clan
  • pack
  • betrothed
  • main squeeze
  • “my people”
  • “pal”
  • mate
  • lover
  • VGF
    (Very Good Friend)
  • intimate friend
  • acquaintance
  • water-sibling
    (from Heinlein, I think from Stranger in a Strange Land)
  • cosominator
    (cosominating is “sleeping together”, but without a sexual implication)
  • paramour
  • adopted sibling
  • workmate
  • chosen family
  • vayalim
    (This was Sean’s term, from an SF novel)
  • “Oh no, we’re just friends!”
    (I don’t remember what that one was about)
  • dating/date
  • buddy
  • trick
  • pet
  • slave
  • master
  • sub/conquest
  • victim
  • movie partner
  • fling
  • relationship
  • conference buddy
    (Too Complicated to Explain)
  • activity partner
  • cuddle buddies
  • cuddle bunnies
  • stalker/stalkee
  • capital-R Relationship
  • small-r relationship
  • energy [illegible]
  • Monster
  • imaginary friend

As you can see, these aren’t terribly consistent as to part of speech, but it was basically a brainstorming session. See something missing from the list? Send me mail at <> and I’ll add it.

Here are some additional terms people have suggested:
  • compa (kohm-pah): life companion, mate (coined by Lisa P.)
  • kine (kee-nay): very loved one, could be a lover, or someone you might sleep with but don’t have sex with, someone who feels like a sweetheart (coined by Lisa P.)
  • love monkey
  • friends with benefits
  • friends with rights (translated from Spanish)
  • seductive friendship