Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a card or present that you give to someone on Valentine’s Day

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The proper noun Valentine was the name of two Italian saints and came into English from French in the 14th century. Its first recorded use in the phrase ‘Saint Valentine’s Day’ came in Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem ‘The Parlement of Foules’ in which Nature convenes a parliament at which birds are to choose their mates.


February 14th is Valentine’s day, also called St Valentine’s day, and it commemorates not one but two early Italian saints of that name. Valentine’s day is also the day of the year when those who are in love are expected to give cards and gifts to the objects of their affection. While the first recorded use of the word Valentine came in Chaucer’s poem, written towards the end of the 14th century, the meaning of a person of romantic interest or sweetheart is first recorded about a century later. Initially such a person might be chosen by lot as well as by active personal choice and perhaps this tradition survives to this day in the fact that a valentine‘s card, also called a valentine, is supposed to be sent anonymously. The practice of sending valentine‘s cards or messages dates from the end of the 18th century and became widely popular with the introduction of a cheap and efficient postal service in the mid 19th century. Like many other festivities, Valentine‘s day has become big business, with vast amounts being spent annually on flowers, chocolates and other gifts.


For this was on seynt Volantynys day Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
(Geoffrey Chaucer, The Parlement of Foules)

Related words

beau, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, squeeze

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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