From the Renaissance on, European kings and noblemen often kept a courtesan, that is, a woman with whom they had a relationship but were not married to.

The courtesan got her name quite literally from the royal court where she lived. In fact, the term to court, as in to woo someone romantically, comes from the origin. A similar term is concubine, though it has a slightly different meaning. Concubines date from earlier times, to the Biblical era and beyond, and refer to woman who were generally kept far more closeted socially, unlike courtesans, who often had great independence and freedom. Don’t confuse your different types of high class girlfriends!

Definitions of courtesan
  1. noun

    a woman who cohabits with an important man

    concubine, doxy, paramour
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    a woman slave in a harem
    type of:

    fancy woman, kept woman, mistress

    an adulterous woman; a woman who has an ongoing extramarital sexual relationship with a man

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