‘limerence’: meaning, origin and early occurrences



The following definitions are from the Oxford English Dictionary (online edition, March 2022):

The noun limerence denotes the state of being romantically infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterised by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship. (It has been suggested that this state results from fluctuations in the levels of various neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine.)

The noun limerent denotes a person experiencing the state of limerence.

The adjective limerent means: exhibiting, or characteristic of, limerence.




The noun limerence was coined by the U.S. psychologist Dorothy Tennov (1928-2007). The following explanations are from the account of the first International Conference on Love and Attraction held in Swansea, Wales—account by Ian Mather, published in The Observer (London, England) of Sunday 11th September 1977:

One of the most illuminating sessions was when Dorothy Tennov of the Department of Psychology, Bridgeport University, Connecticut, described her attempts to find a suitable term for ‘romantic love.’
Miss Tennov combed the whole of classical mythology for a suitable root but found they were all associated with one sex or the other. In a forthcoming book representing 10 years’ research she coins the word ‘limerence.’
‘I first used the term “amorance” then changed it back to “limerence,”’ she told her audience. ‘It has no roots whatsoever. It looks nice. It works well in French. Take it from me it has no etymology whatsoever.’
What was interesting was that the delegates immediately took to the new word and were later heard using it among themselves, one man even describing himself as a ‘wellfed limerant [sic].’ It was as though they had been familiar with the word since the cradle.




The earliest occurrences that I have found of the noun limerence, of the noun limerent and of the adjective limerent are as follows, in chronological order:

1 & 2-: From The Bridgeport Telegram (Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA):

1-: Of Saturday 28th June 1975:

Lovers as Limerents or Remilents? After 9 Years, UB Prof Says Yes

Dissatisfied with most current research on the subject, University of Bridgeport psychologist Dr. Dorothy Tenov has been questioning people about their love affairs for nine years. She has found that most people fall into one of two categories as lovers: the limerent or the remilent.
Limerents fall in love passionately, wholeheartedly and painfully, Dr. Tenov claims. They crave the constant presence of their partner, and are miserable when he or she does not respond. They fantasize romantic encounters at length. They often feel their passions physically—their chests ache or their throats contract.
Remilent people she continued, are less intense. Love may not be exclusive. It is generally less passionate, and can be broken off with greater ease and fewer heartaches.
Dr. Tenov and two assistants, Lisa Cook and Nora Budzilek talked about her research, conducted mainly on UB students, and feminists, at the monthly meeting of the National Organization for Women’s Bridgeport chapter, last night at the First Federal Savings and Loan building on the Post road in Fairfield.
Limerents and remilents (Dr. Tenov invented the words) tend not to understand each other, and the odds are against a successful match between the two.
Our society pushes “limerence” through literature, movies and popular songs (“All or Nothing at All,”) Dr. Tenov said, but remilents are beginning to recognize themselves as normal and healthy.
She said the matter is “not a women’s topic primarily,” and that while differences between the sexes is significant, “the essence of the experience is similar.”
Dr. Tenov, an associate professor of psychology, and confessed limerent, is the author of “Psychotherapy: The Hazardous Cure,” to be published July 24 by Abelard-Schuman (Thomas Y. Crowell).

2-: Of Sunday 7th September 1975:

Psychologist-Author Probes Mystery of Romantic Love

“Romantic love” is an emotion that many in both sexes have never experienced, says Dr. Dorothy Tennov, associate professor of psychology at the University of Bridgeport, who has recently been researching people’s attitudes and reactions towards being in love. […]
[…] Dr. Tennov has come up with some interesting, even volatile discoveries on love as a result of her research, which will form the basis for another of her provocative, stimulating books.
“We do not know how many have never experienced ‘romantic love,’” said the UB psychology professor. “But we do know that some have not. Quite a few, we suspect.”
Ordinary marriage is generally composed of steadier, more solid and earth-bound relationships. “In normal marriage, love is not necessarily romantic love,” she said. […]
For the purpose of her study, she has divided the two types into a classification, with names she has coined herself. The UB psychologist calls “limerents” the persons capable of great passion, romantic fantasy, deeply felt emotion, and great dependency on the object of their “romantic love.” Others whose feet are closer to the ground, who do not feel the same depth of emotion and who find the breaking of a relationship either less hurtful, or without much pain at all, she calls “remilents.”
She feels the two categories are necessary for psychological study, though the terms may jar on the ear of those who think of love in more literary ways—in the evocative, imaginative descriptions in world literature. “It is a new concept,” she says, of the use of these categories.
“What we felt is that it is important that one knows the state of one’s partner’s feeling, the pattern of ‘limerence,’ which is the term we use to describe the state of extreme emotional dependency, obsessiveness and deeply felt passions,” said the consulting psychologist.

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