Show your love in English this February 14th with these terms of endearment.
WHAT IS A TERM OF ENDEARMENT?
They are those terms that we use to address our loved ones, such as ‘cari’ or ‘nene’ in Spanish or the famous ‘darling’ in English. We use them to show our love and affection and many of them tend to be diminutives.
With Valentine’s looming over us, I have decided to compile some of the affectionate terms used by English speakers for their ‘other half’ (spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. – ‘su media naranja’).
I LOVE YOU….
Pronounced /lʌv/, the term ‘luv’ might seem a modern spelling of the word ‘love’, however, it is actually attested from 1825. Mainly used by the working-class, it is often used to address complete strangers, so you might hear a waiter asking a patron ‘What can I get you, luv?’ at any British pub.
‘Sweetie’ became popular in the 18th century, and it is also used in plural (sweeties) in Britain to refer to ‘chuches’ (lollipops, licorice, gummies, etc). ‘Sweetheart’ is often used to refer to a boyfriend or girlfriend from younger times: ‘He married his high-school sweetheart in 1995’ (Se casó con su amor de secundaria en 1995). With much the same meaning, ‘sweetie-pie’ is mostly used in the US.
‘Hun’ is the shortened version of ‘honey’, which became a term of endearment in the mid-14th century. ‘Honey-bunch’ appeared much later on, in the 20th century in the States.
Originally, ‘dear’ was used to describe something that was valuable or expensive, and became an affectionate nickname in the 13th century. If you have ever written a letter or email in English, you know that it is also used to politely salute the receiver (Dear Sirs, Dear Anne, etc.). As an exclamation (‘Oh dear!’, ‘Dear me!’) it can express surprise or pity, among other emotions.
Both ‘baby’ and its diminutives are probably the most widely used terms for ‘significant others’ (personas especiales) all around the English speaking world. ‘Babe’ as in ‘She’s a total babe’ is slang for an attractive young woman.
It originates from the Old English ‘deorling’, ‘dyrling’. It is also used as a friendly way of addressing someone, although it tends to be mostly used by women in this context. It can also mean ‘favourite’ as in ‘The artist has become the darling of the critics’.
OTHER AFFECTIONATE TERMS
Americans use the terms ‘bunny’ and ‘honey-bunny’, which comes from the word ‘rabbit’[i]. With French origins, ‘boo’ is a US slang term which means boyfriend or girlfriend. ‘Sugar’ is also mainly used in the States.
In some northern parts of England, you will hear ‘pet’ being used as a term of affection.
Cockney is an East London dialect, made famous by Dick Van Dyke in ‘Mary Poppins’ or Guy Richie’s gangster film ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’. If you happen to be in West Ham or any of the East London neighbourhoods and you are a woman, don’t be surprised if they call you either ‘princess’ or ‘beautiful’ as these are quite common nicknames around that area.
Some terms are specifically intended for women, such as ‘dove’ (paloma), ‘gorgeous’ (preciosa) or ‘doll’ (muñeca), while ‘handsome’ (guapo) or ‘loverboy’ (amante) are only meant for male partners.
Needless to say, as with any other language, and given its presence in so many different countries and cultures, the list of terms could go on and on.
[i] Note on culture:To avoid any possible awkward moments, please remember that in the majority of cases in the UK, these fluffy and cute animals are considered to be pets and not food. Consequently, and given the special ties they usually have with their animal companions, they might find shocking to be offered a dish such as rice and rabbit.
I hope you find all the terms in this article interesting. Happy Valentine’s everyone!
You will find lots of useful resources in this blog, have a look at:
- Listening: why is it so sifficult?
- Employment and Recruitment Vocabulary
- Telephone English with FREE infographic
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