What is the difference between these two words ?

  • 2
    what's your thought on this issue so far? what makes you think that they are equivalent?
    – shabunc
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 23:34
  • @shabunc , a russian girl asked me if I want her as my girl. So I looked at english dictionary to find out a word for "lover" in english, like a partner, or darling. The dictionary showed me the word: Любовник , and I asked her "Любовник?" and she said "парнем". I didn't think those two were different at that time. But 2 days later, she told me, it is a pity that I only want to be любовником with her. I was confused. To answer your question, the dictionary caused this confusing for me. I thought word "lover" has exact same meaning in russian, but it seems not.
    – HOY
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 18:17
  • 2
    a-ha, now I see her point )
    – shabunc
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 18:21
  • 1
    "К жене пришел молодой любовник когда муж пошел за пивом"
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 17:43

3 Answers 3


One thing surprisingly not mentioned so far (and one most important one) is that парень is way narrower, it's not like boyfriend in modern English - in non-ironical way it's applicable only for younger people. A student can introduce her boyfriend: "Это мой парень", someone in late thirties will sound actually more comical.

Любовник is not a boyfriend either. One will sound unintentionally funny if they introduce their boyfriend/girlfriend as любовник/любовница. The word is used to describe a relationship that is often kept in secret. It also implies that either one or both of the participants are married. любовник/любовница relationships are unofficial in a wide sense of the term "unofficial".

The fact that both terms are not fully equivalent to boyfriend is the reason why in colloquial slang word бойфренд gains more and more traction.

  • 2
    I would say that in recent decade or two the usage of "парень" (and "девушка") much widened. It's no longer comical at all to refer to a man in late 30s as "парень", although from a 18-19 years old girl that would not be met with much approval.
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 0:52
  • @Alexander I can agree that it upper limit is increasing, but still it used way more buy younger people.
    – shabunc
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 0:54

Парень is a boyfriend. Любовник is a lover. Любовник usually implies an illicit affair, where one or both participants are married.


Парень (a cognate to Lithuanian berniukas) makes an emphasis on the relationship while любовник makes emphasis on love-making:

У неё есть парень / нет парня. А парень-то у тебя, подруга, есть? - the phrases are usually within a scale of socially acceptible / polite talks.

Therefore, it's ok to ask a girl you hardly know or don't know at all;

У тебя есть парень?

And it's not ok to ask her

У тебя есть любовник?

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