Lots of people search for the language of love on Valentine’s Day, but does it really exist? If not, which language is the most romantic?

What is the language of love?

If asked to name the language of love, what would your answer be? When asked to name the language of love, most people will reply with French, Italian or Spanish. Nobody is sure why, but people often say that these languages “sound romantic”, and usually we confuse preconceptions about a country’s culture with an understanding that the language they speak must necessarily be more romantic than our own. For example, if we think of France, it’s easy to picture Paris and picnics under the Eiffel Tower. Similarly, Italy might strike up images of relaxing gondola trips along the canals of Venice. Also, there exists an unqualified belief that French men are more predisposed to romantic gestures, or Spanish women exhibit more fiery displays of passion.

However, history shows that these languages do have their roots in Romance. The Romance languages (sometimes referred to as Romanic languages, Latin languages or Neo-Latin languages) are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome. Today the six most widely spoken standardised Romance languages are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and Catalan. Many of these languages have large numbers of non-native speakers; this is especially the case for French, in widespread use throughout West Africa as a lingua franca.

The roots of romance

The term “Romance” comes from the Vulgar Latin adverb romanice, derived from Romanicus: for instance, in the expression romanice loqui, “to speak in Roman” (that is, the Latin vernacular), contrasted with latine loqui, “to speak in Latin” (Medieval Latin, the conservative version of the language used in writing and formal contexts or as a lingua franca), and with barbarice loqui, “to speak in Barbarian” (the non-Latin languages of the peoples living outside the Roman Empire).From this adverb the noun romance originated, which applied initially to anything written romanice, or “in the Roman vernacular”. The word romance with the modern sense of romance novel or love affair has the same origin. In the medieval literature of Western Europe, serious writing was usually in Latin, while popular tales, often focusing on love, were composed in the vernacular and came to be called “romances”.

Here’s how to say “I love you” in the Romance languages. Which one sounds the most romantic to you?

French: Je t’aime

German: Ich liebe dich

Italian: Ti amo

Spanish: Te quiero

Whichever language you speak, today is a day to share with the ones you love. Have a fantastic Valentine’s Day!