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
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
romæntik, a. and sb. Also 7 romantique,
7-8 romantick. ad. Fr. romantique, f. romant, older form of
roman romance, novel.
Of the nature of, having the qualities of, romance in respect of form or
Mus. Characterized by the subordination of form to theme, and by
imagination and passion.
- 1659 H. More Immort. Soul ii.
xi, I speak especially of that Imagination which is most free, such
as we use in Romantick Inventions.
- 1665 Boyle Occas. Refl. (1848) 351 Your Friend Mr.
Boyle. . .was saying, that he had thoughts of making a short Romantic story.
- 1709 Hearne Collect. (O.H.S.) II. 199 In the Bodl.
Library is a Collection of old Romantick Pieces.
- 1749 Power & Harm; Prosaic Numbers 45 Romances and
Novels are often writ in this mixt Language, between Poetry and Prose: and
hence it is sometimes called the Romantick Stile.
- 1777Richardson Arab. Dict. Diss. p. xxix, Romantic Fiction
has long been considered as of Eastern origin.
- 1829 Scott Wav. Gen. Pref., It was a step in my advance
towards romantic composition.
- 1846 Wright Ess. Mid. Ages II. 38 Nothing can be more
erroneous than the attempt to trace the origin of romantic literature to
one particular source.
c. Of a work of modern literature, etc.: having romance as its
subject; treating of a love affair.
- 1885 Fillmore Pianof. Music 80 In romantic music
content is first and form subordinate.
- 1887 Grove's Dict. Music IV. 414 There were in
romantic opera four principal elements-the imaginative, the national, the
comic, and the realistic.
- 1960 R. Rees For Love or Money ii. 30 The doctrine of
D. H. Lawrence's Fantasia of the Unconscious: that sexual passion,
unrelated to the religiousimpulse. . .leads to sterility and death-as in
Anna Karenina, in Carmen, and in the greater part of
European `romantic' literature.
- 1977B. Pym Quartet in Autumn i. 3 Unable to find what she
needed in `romantic' novels, Letty had turned to biographies of which
there was no dearth.
- 1981 S. Radley Chief Inspector's Daughter i. 15, I get
depressed because I write romantic fiction instead of straight novels.
a. Of a fabulous or fictitious character; having no foundation in
b. Having no real existence; imaginary; purely ideal.
- 1667 Pepys Diary 10 Mar., These things are almost
romantique, and yet true.
- 1673 Vain Insolency
Rome 36, I marvel (though you read this, and much more as Romantick
in the Popes Letters) that you can credit all this done by a person,
about an hundred years since.
- 1728 Morgan Algiers
I. 62 Nicephorus relates that..S. Peter preached the Gospel in
Mauritania: But this is looked upon to be intirely romantick.
- 1824 Dibdin Libr. Comp. 672 The notion of an
early-printed edition of the Canterbury Tales, by Wynkyn de Worde, is
3. Of projects, etc.: Fantastic, extravagant, quixotic; going
beyond what is customary or practical.
- 1660 Tatham Charac. Rump Dram. Wks. (1878) 290 Upon the
onely security of Mr. Harrington's romantick Commonwealth.
- 1690 T. Burnet Theory Earth II. 171 We must not imagine
that the prophets..feigned an idea of a romantick state, that never was
nor ever will be.
- 1711 G. Hickes Two Treat. Chr. Priesth. (1847) I. 214
He must give them priests without human infirmities; if I may say it,
- 1671 Sir W. Thompson in Feret Fulham (1900) I. 50 The
romantic and visionary scheme of building a bridge over the river at
- 1719 W. Wood Surv. Trade 170 What is here represented,
will be treated by some of our Planters, as Romantick.
- 1746 Rep. Conduct Sir J. Cope 50 Few crediting so
`romantick' an Enterprize.
- 1800 Mrs. Hervey Mourtray Fam. II. 67 It is his
intention equally to share his future inheritance with his brother. A
most romantic idea.
- 1854 Trench Synon. (ed. 2) 66 A romantic scheme is one
which is wild, impracticable, and yet contains something which captivates
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
- 1700 Rowe Amb. Step-Moth. ii. i, How great a good by me
sincerely offer'd Thy dull Romantick Honour has refus'd.
- 1778 Miss Burney Evelina lxii, I am not romantic;--I
have not the least design of doing good to either of you.
- 1832 G. Downes Lett. Cont. Countries. I. 37 The Wood of
Boulogne is the favourite resort of the Parisian when he wishes to be
- 1849 Macaulay Hist. Eng. ii. I. 199 To unhappy
allies. . .he extended his protection with a romantic disinterestedness.
- 1812 H. C. Robinson Jrnl. 19 May in E. J. Morley
Henry Crabb Robinson on Bks. (1938) I. 84 We proceeded to
Coleridge's first lecture. . . He spoke of religion, the spirit of
chivalry,..and a classification of poetry into ancient and romantic.
- 1813 Edin. Rev. Oct. 206 The poetry of the Spanish
peninsula seems to have been more romantic and less subject to classical
bondage than that of any other part of Europe.
- 1814 W. Taylor in Monthly Rev. Apr. 364 The eleventh
[chapter] divides European poetry into two schools, the classical, and
- 1819 [see classical a. 6].
- 1833 W. Maginn in Fraser's Mag. VIII. 64 `The
noticeable man [sc. Coleridge] with large grey eyes'--the worthy old
Platonist--the founder of the romantic school of poetry.
- 1841 Emerson Ess., History Wks. (Bohn) I. 11 The
vaunted distinction between. . .Classic and Romantic schools, seems
superficial and pedantic.
- 1851 Gallenga Italy II. 65 That new school of
literature to which the vague denomination of Romantic had been generally
- 1878 Dowden Stud. Lit. 25 A leader of the Romantic
- 1908 P. E. More Shelburne Ess. 5th Ser. 119 Like
Friedrich Schlegel, he indulges in the romantic irony of smiling
down upon himself and walking through life like a Doppelgänger.
- 1928 [see classical a. 6d].
- 1930 W. Empson Seven Types of Ambiguity i. 27 Before
the Romantic Revival the possibilities of not growing up had never been
exploited so far as to become a subject for popular anxiety.
- 1937 D. Bush Mythology & Romantic Trad. in Eng;
Poetry p. xiii, The effect of both the romantic and the industrial
movements was to make the artist, if not an anti-social figure, at any
rate an isolated one.
- 1938 Oxf. Compan. Mus. 810/1 By the `Romantic School'
in music is meant the group of active spirits in that movement which began
in Germany with Weber (born 1786). . . Or it can be carried back as far as
Schubert (born 1797) and Beethoven (born 1770).
- 1951 F. Kermode Romantic Image vii. 132 The next
step forward in Romantic aesthetic depended upon a new theory of language.
- 1957 G. B. L. Wilson Penguin Dict. Ballet 230
Romantic ballet, used, somewhat narrowly, to describe the ballets
produced during the period of the Romantic revival in literature in the
early nineteenth century, or roughly from 1830-1850, taking as their theme
the odyssey of mortal man in love with some female spirit of the air or
water or with some maiden risen from her tomb. . . The dividing line is a
slender one, i.e. in the romantic ballet the accent is on colour or mood
rather than form and design which is predominant in the classical ballet.
- 1959 F. Gadan et al. Dict. Mod. Ballet 329/1
Several other great Romantic dancers appeared as La Sylphide.
- 1960 Beckson & Ganz Reader's Guide Lit. Terms
(1961) 108 Romantic irony occurs when a writer builds up a serious
emotional tone and then deliberately breaks it and laughs at his own
- 1977 J. A. Cuddon Dict. Lit. Terms 573 Romantic
revival, a term loosely applied to a movement in European
literature (and other arts) during the last quarter of the 18th c. and the
first twenty or thirty years of the 19th c.
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.
- 1666 Pepys Diary 13 June, There happened this
extraordinary case-one of the most romantique that ever I heard of in my
life, and could not have believed [etc.].
- 1728 F. Hutcheson Ess. Passions i. iv. 94 A Romantick
Lover has..no Notion of Life without his Mistress, all Virtue and Merit
are summed up in his inviolable Fidelity.
- 1754 R. Berenger in World 4 July 474, I know
several unmarried ladies, who in all probability had been. . .good wives
and. . .mothers, if their imaginations had not been early perverted with the
chimerical ideas of romantic love,..upon which principle, a footman may as
well be the hero as his master.
- 1766 Goldsm. Vic. W. i, The girl was. . .called Sophia; so
that we had two romantic names in the family.
- 1769 J. Usher Clio (ed. 2) 82 Innocent and virtuous
love. . .inspires us with heroic sentiments,..a contempt of life, a
boldness for enterprize, chastity, and purity of sentiment. . . People
whose breasts are dulled with vice, or stupified by nature, call this
passion romantic love; but when it was the mode, it was the diagnostic of
a virtuous age.
- 1778 S. Tighe Let. 2 Apr. in G. H. Bell Hamwood
Papers (1930) 27 There were no gentlemen concerned, nor does it
appear to be anything more than a scheme of Romantic Friendship.
- 1806 Byron Fugitive Pieces 23 And friendships were
form'd, too romantic to last.
- 1813 Scott Trierm. i. xix, Yet e'en in that
romantic age, Ne'er were such charms by mortal seen.
- 1854 Ruskin Lect. Archit. & Paint; ii. 65 You feel
that armour is romantic, because it is a beautiful dress, and you are not
used to it.
- 1858 Lytton What will he do with It? (1859) III.
vii. xiv. 135 (heading) Romantic Love pathologically
regarded by Frank Vance and Alban Morley.
- 1866 C. M. Yonge Dove in Eagle's Nest II. ii. 41 Good
substantial wedded affection was not lacking, but romantic love was
thought an unnecessary preliminary, and found a vent in extravagant
adoration not always in reputable quarters.
- 1874 Green Short Hist. vii. Sect.6. 407 The romantic
daring of Drake's voyage. . .roused a general enthusiasm throughout England.
- 1942 T. Bailey Pink Camellia vii. 50 The lovemaking was
of the purely romantic kind, for Cecily would have no other.
- 1945 New Statesman 23 June 408/3 The book opens with a
tale of romantic friendship at Oxford in the years following the first
- 1966 Listener 7 Apr. 509/3 Nowadays, however, educated young
West Africans have discovered the alleged virtues of romantic love. They
stress the idea of marriage being a true union of husband and wife as well
as an economic partnership. Love will be the most important thing when
- 1971 E. Mavor Ladies of Llangollen v. 96 The strange
ambivalence of the pre-Freudian romantic friendships.
- 1975 J. Plamenatz Karl Marx's Philos. of Man xiv.
400 The idea of romantic love has flourished in the same kind of society
as the small family. Indeed, this family is quite often seen as the
creature of romantic love: it is set up by a man and a woman who come to
love one another and who choose each other as life partners.
- 1978 Morecambe Guardian 14 Mar. 17/2 Partnerships
flourish. A romantic attachment is possible, but do not take it too
- 1705 Addison Italy 2 It is so Romantic a Scene, that
it has always probably given occasion to such Chimerical Relations.
- 1748 Anson's Voy. iii. v. 337 An Island, which..may in
all these views be truly stiled romantic.
- 1816 Peacock Headlong Hall iii, To put his romantic
pleasure-grounds under a process of improvement.
- 1864 Skeat tr. Uhland's Poems 57 Still my heart no
quiet knows; With him..Tow'rds romantic isles it goes.
c. Similarly of persons, their character, etc.
- 1828 Sporting Mag. XXI. 224 The hunting events of the
- 1849 J. Forbes Physician's Holiday xiii. (1850) 123 It
is a romantic-looking spot.
- 1846 Grote Greece i. xvii. (1862) I. 395 The exploits
of many of these romantic heroes.
- 1856 Stanley Sinai & Pal; (1858) 328 The grandest
and most romantic character that Israel ever produced, Elijah the
- 1847 H. Melville Omoo lxxviii, He was a sunburnt,
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.
- 1679 V. Alsop Melius Inquirendum ii. vi. 324 Some
Legendary Fabler, that has stufft a Farce with Romanticks.
- A. 1846 A. Rodger Poems, Lo'e me little (1897) 12 Quat
your romantics, your airs, and your antics, Tak' truth's honest track,
and ye'll seldom gae wrang.
- 1887 Black Sabina Zembra 221 There you are with your
- 1827 Carlyle in C. E. Norton Two Notebks. of T. Carlyle
(1898) 111 Grossi..has written a new Epic. . . Grossi is a Romantic.
- 1865 Reader 3 June 619/1 This enthusiasm
for enthusiasm..was natural to the whole race of romantics of that day.
- 1882 Stevenson in Longman's Mag. I. 77 Walter
Scott is out and away the king of the romantics.
- 1898 L. Stephen Stud. Biogr. II. iv. 142 The same
view..made him dislike Carlyle and Froude as romantics, if not
- 1927 R. H. Wilenski Mod. Movement in Art 30
Nineteenth-century romantics deliberately left out all the features which the
admirers of classical painting were accustomed to regard as indispensable
- 1932 W. B. Yeats Words for Music 11 We were the
last romantics, chose for theme Traditional sanctity and loveliness.
- 1933 A. Davidson tr. Praz's Romantic Agony 4 The
thirst for the infinite..animates the lines of the Romantics.
- 1938 Oxf. Compan. Mus. 113/1 Despite their sheer
musical beauty, his [sc. Brahms's] compositions are strongly
charged with what may be called an extra-musical emotion; hence the
classification of their composer as a romantic.
- 1960 A. O. Lovejoy in M. H. Abrams Eng. Romantic Poets
15 To be unsophisticated, to revert to the mental state of 'simple Indian
swains', was the least of the ambitions of a German Romantic. . . The
greatness of Shakespeare, in the eyes of these Romantics, lay in his
- 1961 C. Clutton in A. Baines Mus. Instruments ii. 66
The [organ] works of Liszt and Franck,..and of such late romantics as
Reger, Jongen, and Elgar, rely upon a very large instrument.
- 1966 H. G. Schenk Mind of European Romantics i. 6
Rationalism was attacked by the Romantics not on the grounds that the
intellectual results yielded by it were false, but rather on the grounds
that they were inadequate.
- 1977 Times 18 Oct. 24/9 White tuxedos are occasionally
supplied to shipboard romantics.