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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) an amorous or flirtatious exchange or glance

two edwardian people flirting with one another

The word passado ended up as one of this week’s most popular tweets, defined as “a romantic or flirtatious exchange between two people”.

In that sense, passado dates from the early seventeenth century, but the word itself has been in use in English much longer than that. Originally—and, for that matter, still to this day—a passado was a move in a fencing bout, defined as “a forward thrust with the foil, the rear foot being advanced at the same time.” The word itself is Italian, and essentially means “a passing” or “passage”—and it’s that etymology that paved the way for the romantic definition we tweeted this week.

Back in the early 1600s, the word passage could be used to mean “a flirtatious conversation” or “an amorous glance”, in the sense of a secret or unspoken message being passed between two people. Its Italian equivalent, passado, ultimately acted as a more exotic-sounding replacement for the English term, and so eventually came to refer to an equally romantic or flirtatious exchange.

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