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In honor of Valentine's day, here's a word that may be new to some of you: situationship, defined by Wiktionary as

(neologism, informal) A romantic or sexual relationship in which the parties involved do not clearly define their relationship as such, but for example consider it "complicated" or a friends with benefits-type situation.

Wiktionary gives quotations back to 2014:

2014, Marcia Newman, Five Gifts of Pro-Aging:
Codependents don't have relationships, they have situationships.

Google Books turns up an example from a novel originally published in 2011 — Scott Gummer, Parents Behaving Badly:

The context suggests that this word was already then in common use then, at least in certain circles in California. From the NPR review:

The title, Parents Behaving Badly, pretty much says it all. In his debut novel, Scott Gummer lifts the cap off Little League to reveal a teeming mass of bellowed epithets, thwarted ambition, underhanded double-dealing and parents eyeing each other lustfully in the bleachers. Thanks to his father’s legacy as a legendary high school coach, narrator Ben Holden recoils from baseball the way most of us would at the underside of a dugout bench. But after he and his wife, Jili, move back to their California home town, their sons get swept up in the family pastime, and Ben finds himself nursing a crush on the red-haired mom of a teammate. Gummer, a Little League coach himself, excels in hilariously detailed descriptions of the sport and its participants. Parents Behaving Badly will leave you laughing and grateful that your kid decided to go out for soccer.

And situationship is certainly in common use now, as Google News and Twitter demonstrate, and has even started to be used metaphorically:

Merriam-Webster and the  Oxford English Dictionary haven't included situationship yet, but presumably its Word Induction Ceremony is not far off.


  1. Nicole Holliday said,

    February 14, 2022 @ 9:24 am

    And if you wanted further evidence for how enregistered it is, apparently there are even situationship greeting cards! https://twitter.com/_littlehuman_/status/1492881281864159237?s=21

  2. Viseguy said,

    February 14, 2022 @ 9:33 pm

    Easier to pronounce (and wittier) than it-is-what-it-is-ship. Maybe it's near time to abandon -ship and stop calling these things anything.

  3. RachelP said,

    February 15, 2022 @ 4:51 am

    This seems to me very much akin to what Facebook is doing with having "It's complicated" as a possible relationship status. As far as I can tell that was used since the very start of Facebook in 2004, and one can imagine why such phrasing would be useful to those of college age.

  4. DaveK said,

    February 15, 2022 @ 8:38 pm

    I’m not sure the way the word’s is used in the Gummer novel suggests it was in common usage. Considering that the speaker has just set an empty wine bottle in a guacamole bowl, it could as easily indicate a drunk conflating “situation” and “relationship”.

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