Contents Index


In this context the word means impractical or overly emotional. But this is a word with complicated historical overlays of signification, and thus it would be wise to keep in mind the range of its meanings.

Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary of the English Language (1755) offers three definitions:

1. Resembling the tales of romances; wild

2. Improbable; false

3. Fanciful; full of wild scenery

The list of connotations in the Oxford English Dictionary is considerably longer.

romantic romæntik, a. and sb. Also 7 romantique, 7-8 romantick. ad. Fr. romantique, f. romant, older form of roman romance, novel.

A. adj.


a. Of the nature of, having the qualities of, romance in respect of form or content.

b. Mus. Characterized by the subordination of form to theme, and by imagination and passion. c. Of a work of modern literature, etc.: having romance as its subject; treating of a love affair. 2.

a. Of a fabulous or fictitious character; having no foundation in fact.

b. Having no real existence; imaginary; purely ideal. Obs. 3. Of projects, etc.: Fantastic, extravagant, quixotic; going beyond what is customary or practical. 4.

a. Having a bent or tendency towards romance; readily influenced by the imagination.

b. Tending towards, characterized by, romance as a basis or principle of literature or art. (Opposed to classical.) Also of ballet (see quot. 1957). Hence used of persons connected with, or things relating to, literature, art, etc. of this kind. 5.

a. Characterized or marked by, invested or environed with, romance or imaginative appeal. The examples given here illustrating the collocation of the adjective with love, lover, friendship, and the like, provide evidence of the emergence of its common present-day use to convey the idealistic character or quality of a love affair. Cf. romance sb. 5 b.

b. Of places: Redolent or suggestive of romance; appealing to the imagination and feelings. c. Similarly of persons, their character, etc. --Comb. B. sb.

1. A feature, characteristic, idea, etc., belonging to, or suggestive of, romance.

2. A romantic person; esp. an adherent of romanticism in literature; a romanticist. Also, a composer of romantic music.