If your grandfather was so startled by people shouting "Surprise!" at his birthday party that he had a mild heart attack, you'd probably want to just forget the whole affair. An affair is a specific event.

You can use affair as a kind of shorthand, to mean "that big mess," or "that complicated story I already told you about." Your affair can also mean your responsibility or job, like if your grandmother said, "I don't care about balloons for the party — that's your affair." Another way affair is frequently used is to mean a love affair, particularly if the relationship is brief and intense. This meaning comes from the French phrase affaire de coeur, "affair of the heart."

Primary Meanings of affair

a vaguely specified social event
a usually secretive or illicit sexual relationship
Full Definitions of affair

n a vaguely specified social event

“the party was quite an affair
function, occasion, social function, social occasion
show 31 types...
hide 31 types...
an occasion on which people can assemble for social interaction and entertainment
celebration, jubilation
a joyful occasion for special festivities to mark some happy event
ceremonial, ceremonial occasion, ceremony, observance
a formal event performed on a special occasion
a social function that is held for the purpose of raising money
photo op, photo opportunity
an occasion that lends itself to (or is deliberately arranged for) taking photographs that provide favorable publicity for those who are photographed
an occasion of spending a night away from home or having a guest spend the night in your home (especially as a party for children)
bash, brawl, do
an uproarious party
birthday party
a party held on the anniversary of someone's birth
bun-fight, bunfight
(Briticism) a grand formal party on an important occasion
an informal social gathering at which there is Scottish or Irish folk music and singing and folk dancing and story telling
cocktail party
an afternoon party at which cocktails are served
a party for social dancing
feast, fete, fiesta
an elaborate party (often outdoors)
house party
a party lasting over one or more nights at a large house
a happy party
tea party
a party at which tea is served
whist drive
a progressive whist party
formal ceremony about important occasions
a ceremony at which a dead person is buried or cremated
hymeneals, nuptials, wedding, wedding ceremony
the social event at which the ceremony of marriage is performed
pageant, pageantry
a rich and spectacular ceremony
a ceremony in which something (as a building) is dedicated to some goal or purpose
a ceremony accompanying the start of some enterprise
commemoration, memorialisation, memorialization
a ceremony to honor the memory of someone or something
military ceremony
a formal ceremony performed by military personnel
induction, initiation, installation
a formal entry into an organization or position or office
(usually plural) a ceremony that involves processions and speeches
fire walking
the ceremony of walking barefoot over hot stones or a bed of embers
formalities, formality
a requirement of etiquette or custom
a public ceremony on Maundy Thursday when the monarch distributes Maundy money
a ceremonial feast held by some Indians of the northwestern coast of North America (as in celebrating a marriage or a new accession) in which the host gives gifts to tribesmen and others to display his superior wealth (sometimes, formerly, to his own impoverishment)
Type of:
social event
an event characteristic of persons forming groups

n a matter or concern

“it is none of your affair
matter, thing
something that is of no importance
Type of:
something that interests you because it is important or affects you

n a usually secretive or illicit sexual relationship

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.