A person, other than a spouse, with whom one cohabits.Usage Note: Many people would now agree that a couple can consist of persons living together who are not married or who are not of opposite sexes. How to refer to such a couple, though, has posed an interesting challenge. Many new words have been coined and tested over the last 25 years, including spouse-equivalent or spousal equivalent; POSSLQ (person of the opposite sex sharing living quarters), pronounced (pŏsʹəl-kyo͞o') and originally used as a U.S. Census Bureau designation; and companion or lifelong (or longtime) companion. But these have never been in or have fallen out of general use. Thus the linguistic situation seems to reflect the continuing flux of the social situation.·Two other terms, significant other and domestic partner, however, have seen widespread use since at least 1985 as all-purpose words for describing a spouse or a lover. Over 75 percent of Usage Panelists feel these terms can be applied to members of either heterosexual or homosexual couples. Perhaps because the noun use of other in reference to people is not very common, significant other has not been as widely favored as domestic partner. The latter is used by an increasing number of companies and organizations in drafting benefits plans that include all members of such nontraditional families. The term is often shortened to partner, especially in unofficial situations.
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