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Off topic: Languages of love: 10 unusual terms of endearment
Thread poster: RominaZ

RominaZ  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 30, 2013

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Some terms of endearment can be used in many languages – “baby”, “angel” and “sweetheart” for example. But some don’t travel as well as you might think. If you call a French person “honey” (“miel”) he or she may take it as a unflattering comparison with a sticky mess.

And how would you react if someone called you a cauliflower, a flea, or a baby elephant? Here is a quick guide to the language of love around the world – dominated by metaphors from cookery and the animal kingdom – with contributions by language coach Paul Noble.

1. Little cabbage (French) Petit chou

“Chou” (cabbage) is the French equivalent of “sweetheart”.

2. Pumpkin (Brazil / Portuguese) Chuchuzinho

“Chuchu” is the word for “squash” – but strangely similar to the French “chouchou”.

3. Egg with eyes (Japanese) Tamago gata no kao

In Japan, women are frequently called “an egg with eyes” by those who love them.

4. Lump of sugar (Spanish) Terrón de azúcar

Like “honey” in English, sweet foodstuffs of one kind or another make popular terms of endearment in numerous languages.

5. Fruit of my heart (Indonesian) Buah hatiku

Although the term can be used romantically, featuring in love songs and poems, today it is most often used to express affection for children.

6. My flea (French) Ma puce

“Ma puce” is roughly equivalent to “sweetie” in English.

7. Gazelle (Arabic) Ghazal

Classical Arabic poetry abounds with the imagery of beautiful gazelles (ie women, metaphorically speaking).

8. Little elephant (Thai) Chang noi

Elephants are the dearest of animals to Thai people.

9. Diving fish swooping geese (Chinese) Chen yu luo yan

There is a story surrounding the greatest beauty in Chinese history, a woman named Xi Shi.

10. Little dove (Russian) Golubchik (masc) / golubushka (fem)

Source: BBC

Is this accurate? The Spanish example is true. What about the rest?


Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
English to Dutch
+ ...
Dutch May 30, 2013

If you call a girl or woman 'baby' in Dutch, she'll smack you in the face - I AM NOT AN INFANT!

OTOH, you do well to call her 'schatje' (little treasure).


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
One of my personal favourites May 30, 2013

is "little piece of the moon", the nickname given to the hero in Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" by his doting mother. No idea whether it's a common term of endearment or the author's flight of fancy (I suspect the latter), but I worked it into a nonsense rhyme that I used to whisper into my littluns' ears as they drifted off to sleep.

And I wouldn't take kindly to being called baby in any language.

My man likes to call me "ma biche", my doe (female deer - dear? - rather than rabbit) Luckily it's not pronounced anything like the female dog in English.


Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Smelly Dutch terms of endearment May 30, 2013

Scheetje (little fart) for a small human being or pet, poepje (little fart) for the wife or man you love.


[Edited at 2013-05-30 17:39 GMT]


Artem Vakhitov  Identity Verified
English to Russian
+ ...
The Russian one is old-fashioned May 30, 2013

The Russian "golubchik/golubushka" is old-fashioned. I rarely hear it, and it's mostly from old people. I do have one friend of my age though who often uses that word.

Nowadays — at least within couples — it's mostly "zaychik"/"zayka" (both unisex), meaning "little hare".


Cécile Sellier  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
English to French
+ ...
"Chou" in French May 30, 2013

About the French "chou", I think it refers to the pastry (choux bun) rather than the cabbage... One more term of endearment taken from sweet foodicon_smile.gif


Anabel Martínez  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
"Little dove" in Spanish May 30, 2013

That's an old-fashioned one, so it was funny to read it is used in a real, modern languageicon_smile.gif

Also, in Spanish we can also say "bicho" or "bichito" (bug, little bug). "Cosita" (little thing) is another one. Both work well for children and pets, but may be too "sugary" for some adultsicon_smile.gif


Blandina Broesicke  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
Member (2006)
Chinese to German
+ ...
Chinese one is different May 31, 2013

I don't think, that Chinese people use the idiom "chen yu luo yan", which actually refers to 2 famous beauties in history, one is Xi Shi and one is Wang Zhaojun, and describes just the beauty of a woman, as I understand it. The term of endearment would rather be "bao bei", which can be translated as darling (literally: treasure). But I'm not Chinese. So may be we'll have another option from a native speaker.


Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:27
Member (2008)
Italian to English
A nice thing about the English May 31, 2013

I notice there are no examples of endearing things the English say to one another.

However: one nice thing about the English is that the lady at the supermarket checkout may call you "my darling" or the London Underground lady checking the pass gates may say "come through here, sweetheart".

[Edited at 2013-05-31 16:01 GMT]


Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:27
Hebrew to English
Terms of endearment.... May 31, 2013

Wikipedia lists these common English ones...


Which (imo) range from quite endearing ("pumpkin") to downright unattractive (babe, dollface).


Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:27
Hebrew to English
Polish teddy bears May 31, 2013

I've seen "kocham cię (I love you) misiu" before, I seem to remember being told that it meant "teddy bear/little bear" or something like that.


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
ducky May 31, 2013

I've been called ducky in English, at the checkout and also by a PM who didn't realise I was old enough to be her mother.

Cécile I always thought that "chou" was in reference to the expression about baby girls being born in rosebushes and boys in cabbages... And I've never seen it with an x either when used as a term of endearment...


Eileen Ferguson  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
Member (2012)
German to English
+ ...
Sparrow, treasure May 31, 2013

In German Spatz / Spatzi / Spaetzchen (sparrow) as well as Schatz /Schatzi /Schaetzen (treasure) are frequently used.


Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:27
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Italian May 31, 2013

I have been called the following in Italian (depending on the ...temperature)

amore mio


Denise Phelps  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
Spanish May 31, 2013

I've been called:

Amor de mi vida
Corazón de mi vida

and a lot of less complimentary things.

But I've never heard "terrón de azúcar" (obviously haven't met the right guy yet).

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Languages of love: 10 unusual terms of endearment

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