Sapphic, sometimes known as women loving women (WLW),[1] or sapphist,[2] refers to a woman or woman-aligned person of any sexual orientation who is attracted to women or woman-aligned genders/gender identities.[1][3] Another definition is specifically inclusive of non-binary people.[1] It is an umbrella term for many identities, including those who are lesbian, pansexual, bisexual, or queer.[3] It is used to promote solidarity among women and non-binary people of all identities who are attracted to those who are women and woman-aligned. It may also be used as an identity, and may be found particularly useful for individuals who know they are attracted to women but may be uncertain if they are attracted to other genders.[4] It can also be used to describe a relationship between two women.[5][6]

The complementary, or male-to-male equivalent of sapphic, is Achillean.


Sapphic as an adjective came into during the 16th century in reference to Sappho, poetess of the isle of Lesbos c. 600 BCE. The word was used especially in reference to the characteristic meter of her poetry, and it was not until the 1890s that it gained its meaning of "pertaining to sexual relations between women";[6] the noun "sapphism", meaning "homosexual relations between women", also originated in the 1890s.[7] "Lesbian" and its meanings are similarly derived from Lesbos, the isle associated with Sappho.[8]



The term sapphic is derived from the Greek poet Sappho, who lived on the isle of Lesbos. The sexual identity of Sappho has been long debated and continues as such to this day. Some interpret her poems as meaning she had relationships with women. Her new style of poetry was called a "sapphic stanza". Her songs often mentioned various emotions to her susceptibility to women, which later, derived the terms sapphic and lesbian.[9]

Because the term bisexual did not come into popularity until the 1950s, the words "sapphic"[1] and "lesbian" were used to describe a potentially romantic relationship between two women.[1][8] In the mid-20th century, "lesbian" and "sapphic" were often synonyms, meaning they meant the same thing. In the 21st century, it has become an umbrella term used to describe any romantic relationship between women or between non-binary people. There has been an uptick in searches for the term sapphic since 2014.[1]


Original sapphic flag

The original sapphic flag with a more realistic violet

Two sapphic flags have two pink stripes on the top and bottom, symbolizing love, with a lavender center stripe. The center of the lavender stripe depicts a flower. In one version, a pair of violets in the center symbolizes love between two women;[10] the second version has a single simplified violet instead.

The original Sapphic flag was made by tumblr user lesbeux-moved on August 14th, 2015.[11] The second simplified flag and Violet symbol were made by Deviantart user pride-flags on Sep 10, 2016.[12][13]


The word "sapphic" is often confused for "lesbian" or thought to be the same thing. They historically were equivalent and could be used interchangeably. Their present-day usage can be ambiguous when their definitions are unclear or overlap.[1] "Lesbian" is often (but not always) defined as a woman exclusively attracted to other women[14] and "sapphic" as any woman attracted to women to any extent. When these specific definitions are used, lesbians are a subset of the broader umbrella term "sapphic" that includes all women loving women—lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and other queer women who may or may not be attracted to men.[1] Definitions of these words also vary in their use of language that is explicitly expansive and inclusive of genders beyond "woman".[15]



  • The Ultimate Sapphic Masterlist of 2020 - All these books have moments in the text where it is shown a character is WLW, however, some characters use a specific label (i.e., lesbian, bi, pan) to identify themselves. Others use the term "sapphic" to describe themselves or their relationship(s).
  • Sapphic stanza
  • Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
  • The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall


  1. 1.0 1.1 Gender identity is a personal experience, so defining "woman-aligned" may lead to different answers depending on whom you ask, but it generally refers to a non-binary person who is partially aligned or identifies with being female, with femininity, and/or with womanhood. They may or may not individually identify with this term, and their identity may be fluid between others. Its use here attempts to encapsulate multiple identities without listing each possibility.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 "Why 'Sapphic' Is Back In Style" by Chandra on Autostraddle. Published 2021-08-09. (Archived on 2021-08-13)
  2. "Sapphic/Sapphist" on <>(no backup information provided)
  3. 3.0 3.1 "National Glossary of Terms" by PFLAG on <>(Archived on 2024-02-20)
  4. "What Does Sapphic Mean? + Other Sapphic Information" by Queer in the World on <>(no backup information provided)
  5. "5 Reasons Why I Recommend Being in a Sapphic Relationship" by The Sex and Secrets Column on <>(no backup information provided)
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Etymology, origin and meaning of sapphic" by etymonline on Online Etymology Dictionary(no backup information provided)
  7. "Etymology, origin and meaning of sapphism" by etymonline on Online Etymology Dictionary(no backup information provided)
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Etymology, origin and meaning of lesbian" by etymonline on Online Etymology Dictionary(no backup information provided)
  10. "Violets, Bi-Angles, And Double Moons: A Guide To LGBTQ+ Symbols" by Smith, Erika on <>. Published 2019-06-20 by Refinery29. (no backup information provided)
  14. "Lesbian" by The Trans Language Primer on The Trans Language Primer(Archived on 2021-10-22)
  15. "The Gay BC's of LGBT+: An Accompaniment to The ABC's of LGBT+" by Ash Hardell on <> (e-book). Published 2017-11-09 by Mango Publishing Group. (backup link not available)