1650s, "of the nature of a literary romance, partaking of the heroic or marvelous," from French romantique "pertaining to romance," from romant "a romance," an oblique case or variant of Old French romanz "verse narrative" (see romance (n.)).
Of places, "characterized by poetic or inspiring scenery," by 1705. As a literary style, opposed to classical (q.v.) since before 1812; it was used of schools of poetry in Germany (late 18c.) and later France. In music, "characterized by expression of feeling more than formal methods of composition," from 1885. Meaning "characteristic of an ideal love affair" (such as usually formed the subject of literary romances) is from 1660s. Meaning "having a love affair as a theme" is from 1960. Related: Romantical (1670s); romantically; romanticality. Compare romanticism.
1827 as "an adherent of romantic virtues in literature," from romantic (adj.). Earlier "a feature suggestive of romance" (1670s).
1803, "a romantic idea," from romantic + -ism. In literature, 1823, in a French context, in reference to a movement toward medieval forms (especially in reaction to classical ones), an association now more often confined to Romanesque. The movement began in German and spread to England and France. Generalized sense of "a tendency toward romantic ideas" is recorded by 1840.