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josie's avatar

What is the origin of the classic metaphor "Falling in love"?

Asked by josie (27865points) October 20th, 2010

I think this is an example of what is called a dead metaphor, because you do not actually visualize falling when you understand the meaning of the phrase. Still, it is more poetic to say “I am falling in love” than saying “I have decided that I love this girl I met last week”.
So where does it come from?
Did it first appear someplace like Shakespeare?
Or is the origin simply unknown, a part of the public domain so to speak?

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6 Answers

ducky_dnl's avatar

I think the origin is unknown. Maybe the term “falling in love” came about since some people fall in love fast.. Sort of like falling? Eh, I have no idea what I’m saying. Hope this made sense.

Jeruba's avatar

I agree that it’s a dead metaphor. I have never seen any comment on its origin, but the question interests me. There must have been a time before becoming enamored of someone was expressed in these terms, and then the expression came about. When it entered the language, it must have been vividly metaphorical.

What is the comparable expression in languages that have heavily influenced English? Is there a similar metaphor in Danish, French, German, and other Indo-European languages?

flutherother's avatar

It has become a cliche but with true love you are in the grip of a force which pulls at your heart like gravity and which is beyond your control. I can see why it has been compared to falling but who first made the comparison I do not know.

bob_'s avatar

@Jeruba In German “I have fallen in love with you” is “ich habe mich in dich verliebt”, and “I’m in love with you” is “ich bin in dich verliebt”. Oddly enough, these German phrases are more similar to the Spanish “me he enamorado de ti” and “estoy enamorado de ti” than they are to the ones in English.

Coloma's avatar

Meet, mate, procreate!

Then…men-o-pause…ain’t nature grand? lol

Joybird's avatar

It appears to have been a colloquial phrase used in England in the early 1400’s. It’s not unlike the NJ statement, “For get about it.” It was used to describe the emotional feeling of being out of control…thus likened to falling.
It has fallen out of favor with all the research on emotions, love, sexual attraction and pairbonding that now abound. It is pretty widely recognized that there is no such thing as “falling in love” or “true love”. These are just tag phrases that lay people use in trying to explain their experience of the complex emotion love and the entering into a romantic relationship which is the paring of generic love with sexual attraction and sexual activity. The better the physiological chemistry between to people, their compatibility and high levels of conflict resolution or little conflict and the more likely someone is going to state they have found “true love.” In fact they have only been lucky enough to happen on an optimal pairing.

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