Would you find it particularly cute if your boyfriend called you his flea? Or how about if your wife sent you a cute text calling you, the love of her life, her cabbage? How about if your partner addressed a love letter to you as their sweet little dried sausage?
Sound odd? In French it isn’t. While romantic pet names like, ma puce (my flea) and mon chou (my cabbage) left me pretty confused from the first time I heard them, even simpler French pet names like ma belle (my pretty) just didn’t seem so romantic to me. The first time my French boyfriend called me his belle I couldn’t stop hearing the voice of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too.” I’m not so sure green-faced Wicked Witch of the West was the vibe my romantic Frenchman was going for.
But, sometimes pet names just don’t really make sense. In the U.S. we’ve got names like “cuddle bug” and “dumpling” and “snuggle muffin.” What’s so romantic about bugs, muffins, and dumplings anyway? If you have the answer, hit us up on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (@rosettastone). I’m curious to hear about what makes a muffin so romantic.
This isn’t just an English or French thing, all over the world people are showing their love to the most important people in their lives (boyfriends, girlfriends wives, husbands, etc.) by calling them the names of fruits, baked goods, sweeteners, and animals. Someone in Italy is melting in their seat because their bae just called them a very little onion. Someone in the Netherlands is blushing because their crush called them their little french fry.
So maybe you’re reading this because “baby” is a little too cliché for you and you’re looking for a pet name for that special person in your life. Or maybe you’re off to Mykonos to pick up some bronzed and beautiful Greeks. Or maybe you’re just looking for a laugh.
No matter what, you’ve come to the right place to see which animals, foods, and even body parts are the epitome of romance in their respective languages.
Food-related romantic nicknames
Literally, “little butter heart.” Honestly I don’t have much to say about this one. They had me at butter.
Corazón de melón (Spanish)
For any of you who have taken a little bit of Spanish you were probably doubting your skills when you translated this to “melon heart.” But, qué bien, you are correct. This saying actually came from a Mexican love song called “Corazón de melón” where the chorus is literally just, “Melon, melon heart / Melon, melon, melon, melon, heart / Melon, melon heart / Melon, melon, melon, melon, heart.” I just typed “melon” so many times it looks wrong, but, hey, romance is romance.
Ah, cipollina, or “very little onion.” They stink, they can make you a little emotional, and they’re many layered. Sound like your significant other? Maybe this one’s for you.
There are a lot of Dutch pet names that end in “je” because it is a diminutive, or a suffix added to the ends of words to mean that they are smaller than normal. Other examples of diminutives are “ina/ino” in Italian or “ito/ita” in Spanish. Patatje means “little french fry” and knowing how I look at french fries, for me, it would be honor to be called this one.
Animal-related pet names
I have a soft spot for the schnecke, or snail, because it was my high school mascot. It goes without saying we weren’t very good at sports, but hopefully this romantic pet name has a little more luck on the playing field.
Farfallina means “little butterfly.” This one is interesting to me because this is actually what my boyfriend calls me in French. Well, sort of. He actually calls me “pappardelle,” like the pasta, due to my one-time gross mispronunciation of the French word for butterfly: “papillon.” So maybe I’ll teach him this one so I can start being called a beautiful Italian butterfly instead of a large, flat Italian pasta noodle.
Have you ever really taken the time to notice how fluffy a little bumblebee is? Bhanvaraa, meaning bumblebee, might be perfect for the love who is cute on the outside, but should not be messed with.
When I first heard this I thought people were talking about le pouce (thumb) and not la puce (flea), and I couldn’t understand what these French people had for thumbs. Not that flea makes much more sense. But, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Human body-related pet names
Matia mou (Greek)
One of my favorite things about the Greek language is that you add “mou” (pronounced “moo”) at the end of any word to mean “my” so this one means “my eyes.” Matia mou always reminds me of a really cute greek lullaby where the singer talks about her matia and then compliments the matia of her love.
Once when my Greek grandmother sang it to my three-year-old brother and then told him what the song meant, he proceeded to get sad and tell her his eyes weren’t very beautiful because they couldn’t read. But, hopefully your bae will take this intimate and poetic pet name a lot better than a three year old.
老头 (Lao Tou) (Mandarin)
Lao Tou literally means “old head.” At first it may not sound the most romantic, but most old people I know are super wise and know how to make some amazing meals and always have an interesting story, so I think “old head” could be a nice compliment after all.
小心肝 (Xiao XinGan) (Mandarin)
The romantic nickname, “little heart,” exists in a lot of different languages including French, Spanish, and Italian, but where this one gets a little interesting is with the addition of “liver.” Xiao XinGan means both “little heart and liver.” This is for the moments when one organ is just not romantic enough.
Psychi mou (Greek)Another poetic beauty from the Greeks. You’ll notice we still have the “mou,” but here “psychi” means “soul.” This word is used as a root for a lot of English words so you’ll probably want to pronounce it like “psyche” or “psych,” but you actually pronounce the “p” and you say “Psee-hee.” This is due to the letter ψ (psi) which doesn’t exist in the English alphabet. Pronunciation aside, you’ve got to admit the Greeks have been nailing the romance for ages. I think even Helen of Troy would’ve been wooed by this one.
Teenie-tiny pet names
Here’s another little something from the Dutch.This one means a “little hug.” You have to admit this one is pretty cute, though I’m not sure how you would carry out said little hug.
Petite Mère (French)
A lot of the time European men are stereotyped as mama’s boys. I’m not going to say it’s true, but I am going to say that they sometimes affectionately call their girlfriends and wives “little mothers.” You can take whatever you want from that one.
I think the Italians just had enough with their nicknames like “little baby,” “little mouse,” “little prince,” “little kiddy” and figured just “Piccolina” or “very tiny” would suffice. Because as we learned from very little onion, even a smelly, tear-inducing vegetable can be cute as long as it is very tiny.
Calliope Zarpas, writer and graphic designer, is a collector of foreign words and experiences. She loves trying traditional foods and drinks from all over the world (ask her about the “happy water” she had in a tiny Vietnamese village) and making friends despite language barriers. She blogs at www.ournotsosecret.com.