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See also: lemán, Leman, and Léman


Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English lemman, variant of leofman, from Old English *lēofmann ("lover; sweetheart"; attested as a personal name), equivalent to lief +‎ man ("beloved person").



leman (plural lemans)

  1. (archaic) One beloved; a lover, a sweetheart of either sex (especially a secret lover, gallant, or mistress).
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter V, in Le Morte Darthur, book VI:
      Thenne within an houre there came the knyghte to whome the pauelione ought
      And he wende that his lemā had layne in that bedde
      and soo he laid hym doune besyde syr Launcelot
      and toke hym in his armes and beganne to kysse hym
      And whanne syre launcelot felte a rough berd kyssyng hym
      he starte oute of the bedde lyghtely
      and the other knyȝt after hym
      and eyther of hem gate their swerdes in theire handes
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, I.i:
      Faire Venus seemde vnto his bed to bring
      Her, whom he waking euermore did weene,
      To be the chastest flowre, that ay did spring
      On earthly braunch, the daughter of a king,
      Now a loose Leman to vile seruice bound [].
    • 1819, Walter Scott, Ivanhoe:
      The prisoner I speak of is better booty—a jolly monk riding to visit his leman, an I may judge by his horse-gear and wearing apparel.
  2. (often negative) A paramour.
    • [1387–1400, Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Manciples Tale”, in The Canterbury Tales (in Middle English), [Westminster: William Caxton, published 1478], OCLC 230972125; republished in [William Thynne], editor, The Workes of Geffray Chaucer Newlye Printed, [], [London]: [] [Richard Grafton for] Iohn Reynes [], 1542, OCLC 932884868, folio xcix, recto:
      There is but litel difference truely
      Betwyxt a wyfe, that is of hye degre
      If of her body dishoneſt ſhe be
      And a poore wenche, other than this
      If it ſo be they werke bothe amys
      But for the gentyl is in eſtate aboue
      She ſhal be called his lady and his loue
      And for that tother is a poore woman
      She ſhal be called his wench, or his lemmã [...]
      (please add an English translation of this quote)]
      In modern English this might read:
      There really is very little difference between a wife of honourable rank if she is faithless in how she deals with her body,
      and a penniless woman without rank, except that if they both behave badly then, because of the gentlewoman's rank,
      people call her his lady love, but call the poor woman his slut or his leman.
    • 1915, Oscar Wilde, A House of Pomegranates: The Fisherman and his Soul:
      '...They are lost, I tell thee, they are lost. For them there is no heaven nor hell, and in neither shall they praise God’s name.’
      ‘Father,’ cried the young Fisherman, ‘thou knowest not what thou sayest. Once in my net I snared the daughter of a King. She is fairer than the morning star, and whiter than the moon. For her body I would give my soul, and for her love I would surrender heaven. Tell me what I ask of thee, and let me go in peace.’
      ‘Away! Away!’ cried the Priest: ‘thy leman is lost, and thou shalt be lost with her.’
      And he gave him no blessing, but drove him from his door.
    • 1932, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Sunset Song:
      And he sent the news to William the Lyon, sitting drinking the wine and fondling his bonny lemans in Edinburgh Town, and William made him the Knight of Kinraddie [].