3

In English, to flirt clearly describes an activity that can be performed both between strangers, but just as well between long-term partners.

My impression with flirten in German has been that it is only (or mostly) use to describe the behavior of people who are not in a romantic relationship, but they are, well, flirting with the idea of starting one (or pretending they are).

Can someone confirm or refute this impression?

4

Both, the English to flirt, and its German loanword flirten are used in the same, identical way.

flirten

  • jemandem durch ein bestimmtes Verhalten, durch Gesten, Blicke oder scherzhafte Worte seine Zuneigung bekunden und auf diese Weise eine erotische Beziehung anzubahnen suchenDuden
  • jmdm. vom anderen Geschlecht scherzend und unverbindlich durch Verhalten und Worte seine Zuneigung zu erkennen geben. DWDS

to flirt

  • to behave amorously without serious intent Mirram-Webster
  • Behave as though sexually attracted to someone, but playfully rather than with serious intentions. Oxford Dictionary

In both languages the lighthearted non-serious and playful act is a decisive element.

This however does in no way mean that couples having a long lasting relationship do not occasionally play with each other and start flirting again. I believe this is the same in German and in English.

  • I note that the German first meaning mentions “anbahnen zu suchen”, while the English first meaning says “without serious intent”. That seems to be hardly identical to me. – Joachim Breitner Oct 31 '16 at 14:26
  • @JoachimBreitner: that's the Duden interpretation which does not say anything about the seriousness ... the DWDS definition is much better. – Takkat Oct 31 '16 at 14:30
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I'll firmly disagree with the notion that flirten is restricted to people who are not in a romantic relationship. My marriage of 10+ years would be sad and boring if my husband and I wouldn't be occasionally flirting with each other.

Perhaps the notion that flirten happens only outside a relationship is based on the fact that some married or long-term couples are hesitant to show their admiration for each other in public.

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