CULTURE & ARTS

62 Pet Names Your Honeycake Deserves To Hear On Valentine's Day

Take your little cauliflower on an international voyage of sweet endearments.

Sweetie pie. Honey. Babydoll. Pumpkin. What could be more normal, more unremarkable than the common endearments English-speaking Americans use to address their romantic counterparts?

That is, they seem relatively normal, since we're so used to them. But shift the lens a bit, and suddenly they're positively bizarre. What is a sweetie pie? Why would you address your beloved as a bulbous orange squash? (And that's not even getting into the idiosyncratic pet names that many people bestow upon their partners: A -- um -- friend of mine sometimes calls her fiancé "sweatpants boy.")

It's not typical, in American English, to refer to your bae as "fatty," or "crumb of gold," but in Spanish and Finnish, respectively, it wouldn't be out of the normal to do just that. These romantic idioms from other languages can sound ridiculous when translated literally, but that's part of the fun -- just like "sweet cheeks" or "love muffin," their actual meaning has little to do with the exact denotations of the words.

Why do we so often call our loves "my cabbage" (French) or "little fish" (Russian) instead of simply their given names, or even the more literal honorifics like "wife," "boyfriend," or "beloved"?

Last year, several sex and relationships experts spoke to Bustle about the pet-name phenomenon, which tends to spring up in the context of a whole universe of "relationship speak" -- shorthands and phrases reminiscent of baby talk exclusively used between a couple. Using silly names for each other, experts theorize, signals that a couple feels safe and cared for in each other's company, able to become vulnerable and show their inner childlike side. Even less ridiculous pet names, like the more established "sweetie" or "babe," connote a special level of intimacy; everyone else uses a person's given name, but only their partner would be allowed to refer to them as "babe." 

These warm and snuggly forces may be at work reinforcing relationships, too; one often-cited study from 1993 found that married couples who used pet names more reported higher satisfaction with their marriages. Carol J. Bruess, who led the original study, told Scientific American last year that she believed these silly names and other relationship speak allowed couples to keep the dynamic in their marriages sweet and fun, potentially alleviating tense situations when they crop up.

Most couples, including those that don't last, have their own idiosyncratic pet names that no one else would understand, so trying to catalog all the ways humans have come up with to say "my darling" would be a futile task. Looking at the more common ways people express their affection in different languages from around the world, however, is a beautiful reminder of the joyfully playful nature of romance, even for the most grown-up adults out there.

We asked our editorial staff from around the world to share their favorite terms of endearment, and we were buried beneath a wave of devastatingly cute pet names. Here's a selected list to inspire you this Valentine's Day, because your sweetheart deserves to hear what a duckling/sparrow/cauliflower they are, V-Day and every day:

Spanish:

Gordo/gorda/gordi/gordita

Translation: Fatty; a term of endearment for people of all shapes

"Te quiero como la trucha al trucho."

Translation: "I love you like the girl trout loves the boy trout."

Mi cielo

Translation: My heaven, sky

Amigovio

Translation: Friend with benefits

Tagalog:

Inday

Translation: Sweetheart (usually for a young woman)

Arabic (Egypt):

نور عيني Noor einy

Translation: Light of my eyes

حياة قلبي Hayat alby

Translation: My heart’s life 

Arabic (Maghreb):

روح قلبي Rouh qalbi

Translation: Soul of my heart

عينيّا Aynaya

Translation: My eyes

نوّارة عينيّا Nawaret aynaya

Translation: Flower of my eyes

خنفوستي - خنفوسي Khanfoussti / Khanfoussi

Translation: My little bug 

فلّوستي - فلّوسي Falloussti / Falloussi

Translation: My little chicken 

French:

Ma puce

Translation: My flea/louse

Mon chou

Translation: My cabbage

Mon petit chou fleur

Translation: My little cauliflower

Hawaiian:

Ku'u ipo

Translation: My sweetheart/my lover

Korean:

강아지 Gang-a-ji

Translation: Puppy

Hebrew:

Neshama

Translation: Soul, used the same way as "honey"

Kapara

Translation: Atonement, used in the same way as "babe"

Chinese:

亲爱的 Qin Ai De

Translation: Dear

Welsh:

Cariad

Translation: Love

Twi:

Medofo

Translation: In Ghana, this means "my love"

Japanese:

あなた Anata

Translation: My love

Italian:

Ti voglio tanto bene

Translation: "I want you a lot and well"; basically, “I love you very much.”
(It's often used as an acronym, TVTB, at the end of a letter, or a text, between friends.)

Polpetta

Translation: Meatball, usually for men.

Orsetto/orsetta

Translation: Little bear

Gattino/gattina

Translation: My kitten

Pulcino

Translation: Little chicken

Samoan:

Pele

Translation: Sweetheart

Fatu

Translation: Heart

German: 

Spatz/Spatzi

Translation: Sparrow

Bär/Bärchen

Translation: Bear

Maus/Mausi

Translation: Mouse

Hase/Hasi

Translation: Bunny

Schatz/Schatzi

Translation: Treasure

Krümel

Translation: Crumb

Amharic:

Yene fikir

Translation: My love
(Bonus: 
It's used in a lyric in "The Hills" by The Weeknd, who's also Ethiopian.)

Yene konjo

Translation: My beauty/my sweetheart (used for women)  

Finnish:

Kullanmuru

Translation: Crumb of gold; basically means darling or sweetie

Farsi:

Joon

Translation: Used after a person's name, to mean "dear;" used between friends and significant others

Malayalam:

Chakkara

Translation: Sugar (specifically, jaggery)

Karale

Translation: Liver, because it is seen as more connected to love than the heart
(Fun fact: There's a cute song about it!)

Tamil:

Kanna

Translation: Literally means “eye” but is used like “dear” 

Hindi:

Jaan/Jaanu

Translation: Jaan means “my life”; “jaanu” is basically the equivalent of "honey" 

Shona

Translation: Gold/golden in both Hindi and Bengali

Babu

Translation: "Little master" in Hindi; modified from "baba," an affectionate term for children.

Greek:

Μαναρακι (manaraki )

Translation: Small lamb that is being fed and prepared for slaughter

Μάτια (matia)

Translation: Eyes 

Ζουζουνι (zuzuni)

Translation: Bug

Παπακι (papaki)

Translation: Duckling

Aστερι (asteri)

Translation: Star

 Φεγγάρι μου (feggari mou)

Translation: My moon 

Portuguese:

Gatinho/Gatinha

Translation: Kitten

 Princesa/Príncipe

Translation: Princess/Prince

 Fofo/Fofa

Translation: Cute

Russian

 Лисичка (lisichka)

Translation: Little fox

 Ягодка (yagodka)

Translation: Berry

 Солнышко (solnishko)

Translation: Sunshine

 рыбkа (rybka)

Translation: Little fish

Armenian:

Hokis

Translation: My soul, or love of my soul. Reserved for very close relationships.

"Tsavd Tanem"

Translation: "Let me take away your pain"; an exclamation of care toward another person that is often just thrown into conversation

"Jigaret Udem"

Translation: "I will eat your liver"

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