Author’s note: The date and definition of each word is only the Oxford English Dictionary’s first known recording of the word’s use (in English). The purpose of this is to showcase how and when different definitions for words developed. I found it surprising that in some cases common modern definitions were not used for hundreds of years after the word’s first use.
In each listed word, I have purposefully left out usages and definitions that I found repetitive or irrelevant. As such, this should not be considered an exhaustive or comprehensive list of word use, past meanings, or etymologies. All definitions, dates, and records of publication are directly taken from the OED.
Etymology: Old English coss
c1000, Aelfric’s Homilies: A touch or pressure given with the lips (see kiss v. 1), in token of affection, greeting, or reverence; a salute or caress given with the lips.
1598: Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost: A light touch or impact.
1825: A Glossary of North Country Words: Name for a small sweetmeat or piece of confectionery; a sugar-plum.
1829: Young Lady’s Book: A fanciful term for a drop of sealing-wax accidentally let fall beside the seal.
Etymology: Germanic cognate with Old Frisian herte, Old Dutch herta, and Old High German herza:
c. 800: Bald’s Leechbook: The hollow muscular organ which performs the function of a pump in the circulatory system, receiving blood from the veins and contracting to propel it into the arteries.
OE Beowulf: The center of the vital or life-maintaining functions of the body; the seat of life; the vital part or principle
1047: Crist III: The seat or repository of a person’s inmost thoughts, feelings, inclinations, etc.; a person’s inmost being; the depths of the soul; the soul, the spirit.
c. 1440: Robert Thornton’s Liber de Diversis Medicinis: The tissue of an animal’s heart as food.
1491: Mirk’s Festialis: Similarly in expressions such as near (to) one’s heart, to hold to one’s heart, etc., in which fond regard or great affection for a person or thing rather than actual physical proximity is meant.
1557: Earl of Surrey’s Songs and Sonnets: Susceptibility to the emotions involved in matters of (romantic) love or affection.
1603: Shakespeare’s Hamlet: With reference to non-material things: the vital, essential, significant, or operative part; the essence or core (of something).
1682: John Bunyan’s The Holy War: The source of energy, vigour, enthusiasm, or commitment.
Etymology: Late Old English wógian
c1000, Aelfric’s Lives of Saints: To sue to or solicit (a woman) in love, esp. with a view to marriage; to pay court to, court.
1050: Liber scintillarum: To make love.
c1440: Promptorium Parvulorum: To solicit the possession or achievement of.
1615: A Strappado for the Diuell: To make entreaty; to sue for; to ‘invite’, ‘call’.
ROMANCE, noun and adjective
Etymology: French romaunce
c. 1300: Havelok: A medieval narrative (originally in verse, later also in prose) relating the legendary or extraordinary adventures of some hero of chivalry.
1548: D. de San Pedro’s Castell of Loue: A Spanish historical ballad or short epic poem, typically composed in octosyllabic lines.
1589: George Puttenham’s The Arte of English Poesie: A fictitious narrative, usually in prose, in which the settings or the events depicted are remote from everyday life, or in which sensational or exciting events or adventures form the central theme.
1638: Thomas Herbert’s Some Yeares Travels: An extravagant fabrication; a falsehood, a fantasy.
1668: John Dryden’s The Feign’d Innocence: The action of concocting falsehoods; wild exaggeration, speculation, or fantasy.
1745: Mark Akenside’s On Love: The character or quality that makes something appeal strongly to the imagination, and sets it apart from the mundane
1783: Comtesse de Genlis’ Adelaide & Theodore: Any of various kinds of short vocal or instrumental piece, typically simple, informal, or lyrical in character.
1844: Hood’s Magazine and Comic Miscellany: A love affair; a romantic relationship.
1858: New Monthly Magazine: Ardor or warmth of feeling in a love affair; love, esp. of an idealized or sentimental kind.
Etymology: Germanic Cognate with Old Frisian luve, Old Saxon luƀa, Old High German luba love, and with Gothic -lubō
c. 1225 St. Juliana: A feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone.
1225: R. Morris’ Old English Homilies: In religious use: the benevolence and affection of God towards an individual or towards creation.
1300: Physiologus: Sexual desire or lust, esp. as a physiological instinct; amorous sexual activity, sexual intercourse.
1325: Genesis and Exodus: Amicable or peaceable settlement (as opposed to litigation).
c. 1405: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Prologue: As a form of address to one’s beloved and (in modern informal use) also familiarly to a close acquaintance or anyone whom one encounters.
1561: The Courtyer of Count Baldessar Castilio: pl. love affairs, amatory relations.
1585: The Nomenclator, or Remembrancer of Adrianus Lunius Physician: A game of chance of Italian origin in which one player holds up a certain number of fingers, and another simultaneously guesses their number
1613: Edinburgh Testaments: A thin crape or gauze material, formerly worn when in mourning.