Romance - Word of the Week

Definition: Romance

Noun: A strong emotional relationship between two people.

Noun: A tale of adventure, often involving the supernatural.

Adjective: ("Romantic") An activity or setting that inspires romance.

Example: "He gave me roses and took me out for dinner - it was very romantic."

The word "romance" applies to movies, books, restaurants, gifts, relationships, and of course Valentine's Day - but it hasn't always meant what we use it for today.  The use of "romance" to mean love and courtship is actually a fairly new thing, compared to the original meaning of the word.

As you might suspect, the word "romance" has something to do with the ancient Romans, but it doesn't come straight from them.  Instead, it comes from the 14th Century, and originally meant "French" - usually referring to stories, poems, or songs.

These were usually written in French (even in England), which was the language of popular stories.  Latin was for serious stuff like religion and politics, but French was used for stories to entertain the common people. So stories that were about less-serious things, (most often written in French), were called "romances".

These stories were often about knights and dragons, epic quests and damsels in distress. The most famous is the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Dramatic Re-enactment

This is why the term "romance" became associated with these stories - it had little to do with love until around the 17th Century, when we started including love stories in this group.

If you go back even further, "romance" means, "in the Roman style".  When we say this, we're talking about what we call "romance languages", rather than stories.  Languages like French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan are all called "romance languages" because they are based on Latin (which started in Rome, of course).

Interesting fact: English is not a romance language, despite having many words in common with French, Spanish and Italian.  Instead, it is a Germanic language, because it began as the language spoken by the Vikings. The Vikings came from what is now known as Germany and Scandinavia.

Vikings: Not very romantic

If you would like to learn more about English heritage and how the English language began, there's no better place to do it than our English School in Salisbury, where you'll find Stonehenge and loads of other historical treasures!

What's the most romantic thing someone has done for you?

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