better half

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Ultimately from such Latin poetic phrases as animae dīmidium meae (half of my soul) (Horace writing about Virgil[1]), when it instead referred to a close friend (compare soulmate). First written instance of it meaning “spouse” was in 1580 by Sir Philip Sidney.





better half (plural better halves)

  1. A person's spouse or lover, most commonly a man's wife.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:spouse
    • 1580, Philip Sidney, “Book III”, in The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, page 357:
      But with that Argalus came out of his swoon, [] , it seemed a little cheerful blood came up to his cheeks, like a burning coal, almost dead, if some breath a little revive it: and forcing up, the best he could, his feeble voice, “My dear, my better half,” said he, “I find I must now leave thee: and by that sweet hand, and fair eyes of thine I swear that death brings nothing with it to grieve me but that I must leave thee, []
    • 2002, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, “Interview”, in The Office, season 2, episode 6 (television production), spoken by Helena (Olivia Colman):
      Private life then, just to flesh out David Brent the man. Is there a better half?
  2. (archaic) A very close friend or companion.

Usage notes

  • Generally jocular, but may be complimentary or as a sign of respect.




  1. ^ Horace (23 BCE) “book I, poem III”, in Carmina [The Odes] (in Latin):Et serves animae dimidium meae