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Les Petits Noms d’Amour: 11 Must-Know French Terms of Endearment

Cookie Bear, Honey Bee, Apple Pie... Outside their natural context, English nicknames can seem extremely corny or just plain weird. But let’s be honest: how many times have we resorted to them to say “I’m sorry”, or just to express our love?

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Terms of endearment are a nice way to let people know how we feel about them, an opportunity to get creative with words, and, of course, a very useful approach to a new language. Today, I’m going to go over the most romantic, strange, hilarious, absurd terms of endearment in French with the help of our native French teacher, Léa.

French terms of endearment for romance

1. Mon cœur (My heart)

Is there anything more essential to our survival than our beating hearts? Though this French nickname is not frequently used in English, it is the ultimate term of endearment in le langage de l'amour. Oh, and the best thing is that you can also use it for your children!

2. Doudou (My… cuddly thing? Blankie?)

One of the funniest things about French terms is how different they are from their nearest English equivalents.

One of the most untranslatable French nicknames out there, doudou refers to a toddler’s most cherished, unable-to-let-go item, usually a teddy bear or a blanket.

“But Léa… Doudou? What does that even mean? Where does it come from?”

According to Léa, doudou is a slang term in some African countries, including the West Indies, that people use to casually refer to a girlfriend or a wife. As a French nickname, however, you can use it for both men and women.

3. Ma moitié (My other half)

In Spanish, people say “mi media naranja” (half an orange); in Italian, “la mia dolce metà” (my sweet half); in English, “my better half”. Seriously, what is up with romantic love? Shouldn’t we see ourselves as complete beings?

Yes, I know. Completely off-topic.

Anyway, according to Léa, this is one of the most popular nicknames for a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and you can also use it with your best friend to mean something like “my partner in crime”.

4. Ma chérie (my darling)

For once, we have a perfect, equally common counterpart in English. Yay!

Not so fast, Juan.

What? Who’s speaking? Oh, Léa, I had forgotten you were here.

Apparently, the French chérie is a bit more complex than its English equivalent. There’s chérie, chéri, cher, chère, and of course, there is the singer Cher, but again, that would be a bit off-topic.

So let’s just focus on French nicknames for the time being:

  1. Use ma chérie to talk to a girl or a woman
  2. Use mon chéri to talk to a boy or a man
  3. Use ma chère (feminine) and mon cher (masculine) when writing a letter.

(If you think this is way too complicated for a blog about French nicknames, kindly address your complaints to Léa…)

5. Mon trésor (My treasure)

Do you remember Gollum, from The Lord of the Rings series, who devoted his whole life to looking after a ring he called “my precious”? Well, that’s precisely what I would translate this French nickname to: “my precious”.

Though we don’t use the word “treasure” the way French people do, it’s easy to see why they would use a term associated with jewels and precious stones to talk about the people they cherish.

French terms of endearment for friends

6. Mon gros (my fat one)

Yes, I know we are not supposed to talk about people’s weight. But believe me; this French nickname is actually positive. In English, its nearest equivalent is “bro”, and it is one of the most commonly used French nicknames for friends among young people.

7. Mon saucisson (my sausage)

I swear this French term of endearment does not mean what you’re thinking. Much like mon trésor, it’s a nice slang term that French people use to address a loved one.

“But what do sausages have to do with anything?”

According to Léa, the saucisson is a very popular in France. Actually, there are different names for different types of sausages: saucisson sec, for a salami-type sausage; saucisse de foie, for liver sausages; andouilles, for a spicy, cold-smoked sausage made of pork tripe... Okay, you get the point.

In short, if you want to let a friend know that they mean the world to you, just say they are a saucisson.

8. Mon plaisir quotidien (my daily pleasure)

We may not have this French nickname in our vocabulary, but doesn’t it make complete sense that other people do? If you have one of those friends who’s always there for you and can also make you laugh for hours, use this French term of endearment to let them know how much joy they bring into your life.

French terms of endearment for family

9. Ma puce (my flea)

Sausages, fleas, fat people, what’s up with these French nicknames? *sighs*

Puce is a feminine word and, according to our star French teacher, it’s one of the most popular French terms of endearment for friends and children.

Yes, I said a feminine word, but this doesn’t mean you can’t use it with men. It’s just that, in Romance languages such as Spanish and French, there is something called grammatical gender. But I had better leave that for a different article.

Oh, by the way, you can say ma puce, or use one of its diminutive varieties for extra cheesiness:

ma pupuce (f) — tiny, little flea

ma petite puce (f) — little flea

mon petit monstre (my little monster)

You would tell your small child that he is a monster, right? Well, if you had been born in France, you most probably would.

In France, parents say mon petit monstre to tell their sons and daughters that they’re cute little creatures.

10. Mon lutin (my elf)

A variation of mon petit monstre, mon lutin is also used with children to say that they are as adorable as Dobby from the Harry Potter series.

11. Mémé (Granny)

According to Léa, there are many French terms of endearment to use with grandmas, but not all of them might be welcome by modern French women. If you’re planning to travel to Paris to visit your grandmother for the first time since you were a little flea, it’s better to call her Mémé as opposed to Memere (which reads like “old woman”). Other acceptable options are Mamie and, of course, the more formal Grand-maman.

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