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A girlfriend is a female partner one is romantically and/or sexually involved with. It can also refer to a female friend.
This term is often used loosely, and there is some debate over what exactly constitutes a girlfriend
Partners in committed non-marital relationships are also sometimes described as a significant other or simply partner, especially if the individuals are cohabiting.
Girlfriend and partner mean different things to different people; the distinctions between the terms are subjective. How the term is used will ultimately be determined by personal preference.
A 2005 study of 115 people ages 21 to 35 who were either living with or had lived with a romantic partner notes that the lack of proper terms often leads to awkward situations, such as someone upset over not being introduced in social situations to avoid the question.
There exists some ambiguity between the terms "girl friend," or a friend who is a girl, and "girlfriend." The transition between the two is a significant aspect of adolescent development.
Both forms of "girlfriend" and "girl friend" are used by different people to mean different things. For example, when the term "girlfriend" is used by a girl or woman about another female in a non-sexual, non-romantic context, the two-word form "girl friend" is sometimes used to avoid confusion with the sexual or romantic meaning; however, this is not a rule. In this sense of its usage, "girlfriend" is used in terms of very close friends and has no sexual connotations, unless it is in the case of lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual women. The term "girlfriend" is also used in LGBT communities and can refer to people of any sex or sexuality.
The term "girlfriend" does not necessarily imply a sexual relationship, but is often used to refer to a girl or woman who is dating a person she is not engaged to without indicating whether she is having sex with him or her. With differing expectations of sexual mores, the term dating can imply romantic activity whereas simply using "friend" would likely avoid implying such intimacy. It is essentially equivalent to the term "sweetheart", which has also been used as a term of endearment.