10 Terms of Endearment From Around the World
My love, my dear, my … ducky? The nuances of language are truly fascinating, especially when it comes to the ways different cultures refer to their close friends and loved ones. For example, in places like the U.K., it’s not offensive to refer to someone as a waterfowl, and in the Philippines, you might try “lambing” to express your love. CircleAround sourced a few terms of endearment from 10 languages that you can try out next time you’re looking to express your love and affection for someone special.
1Arabic: Habibi/habibti حبيبي/حبيبتي
Habibi (for addressing men) and habibti (for addressing women) is commonly used to greet close friends and loved ones. It takes on different meanings depending on who is being addressed. According to Reddit user michaela_kohlhaas, habibi can be as informal as “dude/bro,” “kiddo,” “darling,” “my friend,” or as deep as “my love” when addressing a romantic connection. “It’s a generic term of endearment that conveys affection and isn’t too intense,” they add.
2British English: Ducky
Sir or Madame might be common on shows like Downton Abbey, but if you’re traveling through Great Britain and someone calls you a duck, don’t feel offended. It’s a pet name Brits use, even for strangers. “Hello, dear,” “Thanks, ducky” “Thank you, petal” are all phrases British people may use as a sign of gratitude or a casual greeting, and it’s always friendly. If you’re lucky, British novelist Christopher Fowler says you might even be called “treacle,” which is a British sweetener similar to molasses. Plus, it’s kind of cute!
Derived from a Nigerian language called Igbo, oriaku roughly translates to: “The one who consumes my wealth.” The endearment aspect is debatable depending on who you speak to; some feel it represents a spoiled wife, but for many who use the term, it’s used as a point of pride. “It actually goes to emphasize the Igbo man's culture of loving his wife and lavishing her with all the good things of life,” someone wrote on Nairaland Forum. Others who speak Igbo have begun using Odozi aku instead, which represents a “wealth manager” or “wealth keeper” translation — still representing a partner’s wealthy status, but the point of pride is in the ability to spend wisely, rather than excessively.
4French: Mon gros
While these words literally translate to “my fat,” this isn’t an insult when it comes to two men greeting each other in France. It’s a term of endearment closer to something like, “Hey, big guy!” regardless of the person’s body type. Just don’t say it to a woman, because then the greeting does become an insult. For those times, ma biche (my doe) or ma poule (my hen) are more appropriate.
When Filipinos want to express affection for each other, they call it lambing. It goes beyond just a hug and a cuddle, however. When you’re lambing someone, it’s usually over the top, super sweet, and so exaggerated, the other party can’t resist. According to Filipiknow, “Filipino children have this down to an art. They know when to lambing nanay [Mom] especially when they’re in for some scolding. And tatay [Dad] gets some of the lambing when the chikitings [kids] are asking for a new toy.”
No, Prague isn’t full of sailors, but you will often hear young people greeting each other with what sounds like, “Ahoy!” According to Expats.CZ writer Marcus Bradshaw, even Czechs aren’t totally sure why they use such a nautical term as an informal greeting as the country is landlocked. Still, it’s popularly used as a term of endearment. It’s more polite for foreigners in the Czech Republic to greet others with dobrý den, meaning “Good day.”
Serbian is one of the hardest languages to learn, and also one of the most literal languages when translated into English. A perfect example is the word desi, which is a term of endearment for close friends, children, and interestingly enough, dogs you meet on the street. Desi literally translates to “Where are you?”, and many Serbs aren’t entirely sure how to explain why they ask people where they are when they are literally standing in front of them. Regardless, “desi mala!” (where are you little one!) is a sign of affection and closeness within this tight-knit culture.
Some of the most creative terms of endearment come from Germany, where you can be called anything from liebling (darling, or favorite), to Schnuckiputzi Hasimausi Erdbeertörtchen (a combination of cutie pie, bunny, mouse, strawberry tart). Germans love to refer to their loved ones as maus (the word for mouse), and Mausezähnchen might be the cutest way to use it. According to Daniela Kirova from My Daily German, “Why would you call someone a Mausezähnchen or ‘little mouse tooth’? We don’t know, but imagine how cute and small the object must be.”
Reddit users discussed a few different terms of endearment for children, specifically in reference to more mischievous kiddos. “A little piece” refers to an adorable child in Yiddish, a language that originated in German Jewish communities. We can only imagine there’s more to the phrase (for example, a little piece … of work?).
10Spanish: Anything in the diminutive form
With over 20 countries designating Spanish as their official language, you’re likely to hear and use the diminutive form a lot. Joanna Lupa, a Spanish expert at LangBox, notes that speakers add “-ito”, “-ita,” or “-itos” at the end, and it can be used with someone’s name (Carlos becomes Carlitos), or at the end of words, like corazoncito (which translates as “little heart” but really means “sweetheart). “The use of diminutive form in Latin America seems a little excessive,” she also adds. “Virtually anything here can become little and cute,” like papelito (a small piece of paper) or cafecito (little coffee).