When does a boyfriend or girlfriend become a “partner”?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
October 10, 2019, 10:43 AM GMT+0

We ask Britons how they’d refer to their significant other, and it seems that things change in your mid-30s

Have you ever worried about how to refer to your significant other when introducing them to people? Fear not, for new YouGov Profiles data reveals what the most common parlance is among people your age.

We asked 37,000 Britons how they would refer to someone they were in a relationship with, but not engaged or married to.

The nation as a whole is split, with 43% saying they would call them either “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, while another 41% would refer to them as their “partner”. Another 5% would call them something else entirely, and the rest don’t know.

Unsurprisingly, age makes a big difference. Among the youngest adults – those aged 18 and 19 – fully 71% would call them a boyfriend or girlfriend, and only 12% would use the term partner.

This gap progressively narrows as people get older, with the crossover point occurring just after the mid-thirties, with the 43% of 35 to 39 year olds who would use the term boyfriend or girlfriend matched by the 44% who would use partner.

“Partner” use peaks among 50 to 55 year olds, with 53% of people this age preferring the word, compared to 36% still using boyfriend or girlfriend.

Intriguingly, the gap then starts to narrow again, having effectively closed by the mid-60s with 39% of people this age saying “boyfriend”/”girlfriend” and 42% “partner”. At this age people also become slightly more likely to have answered “something else”, at 8% to 10% compared to the 3% to 4% of the younger age groups.

Photo: Getty

Learn more about YouGov Profiles

Explore more data & articles