32+ Common Chinese Terms of Endearment You Need to Know
Chinese terms of endearment are cute words Chinese people use to refer to their loved ones.
Whether it be to joke around, show affection, or even flirt with someone in Chinese, using these words correctly will help you sound more like a native speaker.
Plus, these 32 common Chinese terms of endearment can potentially deepen the bond between your Chinese family, significant other and/or friends.
- Pet Names in Chinese
- Family Nicknames in Chinese
- Chinese Terms of Endearment for Friends
- Other Names and Respectful Titles in Chinese
Pet Names in Chinese
Let’s start off with Chinese terms of endearment for that special someone in your life.
There are quite a few that translate into the English pet names you already know, and there are a couple that are quite strange and require a bit of explanation.
1. 宝宝 / 宝贝
Pinyin: bǎo bǎo / bǎo bèi
You’ve probably heard of the terms 宝宝 and 宝贝, which both translate to “baby.”
While “baby” is a common pet name in English, it’s mostly reserved for children and actual babies for Chinese speakers.
Some younger couples may still refer to each other as 宝贝, and some even use the loanword 北鼻 (běi bí).
Pinyin: qī zi
Pinyin: zhàng fu
Pinyin: lǎo pó
English: (informal) wife, wifey
Pinyin: lǎo gōng
English: (informal) husband, hubby
Pinyin: lǎo pó zi
English: (informal) wife, old lady
Pinyin: lǎo tóu zi
English: (informal) husband, old man
Pinyin: tài tài
Pinyin: xiān sheng
Pinyin: ài rén
English: lover, spouse
Pinyin: qíng rén
Pinyin: qīn ài de
English: beloved, dear, darling
Pinyin: tián xīn
Pinyin: nǚ péng yǒu
Pinyin: nán péng yǒu
Pinyin: shǎ guā
You may have heard couples call each other names—either in public or in Chinese dramas—like 傻瓜, which means “fool,” or 笨蛋 (see next entry), which means “idiot.”
Obviously, “fool” and “idiot” aren’t exactly names you’d call your significant other in English.
However, it’s easy to see how the Chinese equivalents can actually be used in a playful sense when you break down the terms into their literal meanings.
傻瓜 is “silly melon,” which is kind of cute if you think about it.
Pinyin: bèn dàn
The literal meaning of 笨蛋 is “dumb egg.”
Think about how English speakers might tease each other affectionately with names like “silly” and “dummy.”
A couple—or even close friends—might playfully scold each other like so:
(xià yǔ de shí hou nǐ chuān zhuó liáng xié, bèn dàn.)
You’re wearing sandals when it’s raining, dummy.
Pinyin: chén yú luò yàn
English: (adj.) extremely beautiful / (n.) extremely beautiful woman
This is an idiomatic expression that describes a woman being extremely beautiful, which seems odd since it literally means “sinking fish, swooping geese.”
However, you can find the origins of this expression in stories by Taoist author Zhuangzi.
A woman named Xi Shi was so beautiful that fish would forget how to swim every time she visited the pond.
Wang Zhaojun was another beauty who affected geese, causing them to forget how to flap their wings when they were in her presence.
So when “sinking fish” and “swooping geese” are put together, you’re comparing someone to the two most gorgeous women in Chinese literature.
沉鱼落雁 can be used as either a noun or adjective. For example:
(tā yǒu chén yú luò yàn zhī mào hé zhì lì.)
She has beauty and intelligence.
(nà yǎn yuán zhēn chén yú luò yàn!)
That actress is insanely gorgeous!
Pinyin: xīn gān
English: other half / most important person
Do you ever address your partner as “my heart and soul” or “my everything”?
There’s a Chinese version of that (well, sort of).
This phrase literally means “heart and liver,” and it’s often reserved for your other half (or the most important people in your life). You can’t live without them, just like you can’t live without those organs.
Members of a family may also address each other using this Chinese term of endearment. Parents sometimes combine it with 宝贝, calling their kids 心肝宝贝 (xīn gān bǎo bèi).
Family Nicknames in Chinese
Nicknames aren’t just for your partner, and Chinese families rarely call each other by their real names.
Just like how some kids call their fathers “pops” and parents call their kids “sweetie” or “baby,” there are plenty of terms of endearment to go around in Chinese families.
But before we get to those, make sure you know the names of family members.
Pinyin: hái zi
If there’s only one kid in the family, the parents might call them 孩子, which means “child.”
Of course, this nickname works when there’s only one child, or only one present at the time.
Pinyin: hǔ zǐ
English: brave young man
This one literally means “tiger cub” or “tiger son.”
Pinyin: qiān jīn
English: darling daughter
When literally translated, it means “1000 gold.”
23. 阿 + given name
Pinyin: ā + given name
English: nickname among siblings
Chinese Terms of Endearment for Friends
24. 哥哥 / 弟弟 / 姐姐 / 妹妹
Pinyin: gē ge / dì di / jiě jiě / mèi mei
Just like how English speakers can refer to their friends as brothers and sisters, Chinese speakers can use these familial names (literally “older brother”/ “little brother” / “older sister” / “little sister”) to refer to their buddies.
25. 小 + given name
Pinyin: xiǎo + given name
English: Little + Name
Using 小 + given name is popular among friends, especially if there’s a younger one in the group (or one’s who just generally smaller than the rest).
This also works for young members of a family.
While children still refer to their parents and grandparents with traditional terms, kids are usually given unique nicknames, often adding 小 to the last character of their name.
So if a kid’s name is 王伟 (wáng wěi), his family might call him 小伟 (xiǎo wěi).
26. 大 + given name
Pinyin: dà + given name
English: Big + Name
大 + given name might be used once the young friend gets older.
If there are two friends with the same given name, they could also be differentiated by 小/大+ given name, just like how you might call your buddies Little John and Big John.
For female members of a group, a possible nickname is doubling their given name, so a girl with the name 王芳 (wáng fāng) could be called 芳芳 (fāng fāng).
In the same vein as those seemingly insulting terms like 傻瓜 and 笨蛋, another way that friends might refer to one another is by 小/大+ certain characteristics. This way to nickname friends is something that we wouldn’t necessarily get away with so easily in English-speaking cultures.
27. 胖 + given name
Pinyin: pàng + given name
English: Fat + Name
Many Chinese people are very comfortable identifying one another as fat, using the character 胖 as a prefix to someone’s given name.
Or if they don’t end up using 胖 + given name, they might say 小胖子 (xiǎo pàng zi), or “little fat one.”
Or compare the friend to an animal like 小猪 (xiǎo zhū), meaning “little piggy” or “piglet.”
This might seem pretty mean—especially to those outside of the friend group—but it might just be a case like that of Fat Amy from “Pitch Perfect” who gave herself the nickname.
Other Names and Respectful Titles in Chinese
Chinese terms of endearment aren’t just about showing love and affection—they can also be about showing respect.
Pinyin: qīn ài de tóng xué men
English: dear students
A teacher might talk to or about his students by saying 亲爱的同学们, meaning “dear students,” while students call their teachers 老师 (see more below).
29. Surname + 老师
Pinyin: Surname + lǎo shī
English: Mr. / Ms. / Mrs. + Surname
Students can refer to teachers by their surname + 老师, or simply as 老师, which literally translates to “old master.”
Pinyin: shī fu
English: (for males only) master, qualified worker
Normally, you wouldn’t use terms of endearment with people you don’t know, but it also helps to know what some respectful titles are so you can politely address acquaintances and strangers.
For example, when you want to address a (male) cab driver, you could use 师傅, which means “master,” but is more generally used as “qualified worker.”
It refers to professions like tailors and cab drivers and is reserved for male workers.
So when you want to tell your driver to stop, you could say:
(shī fu zhè lǐ kě yǐ le.)
This is a nice way of saying, “Driver, we can stop here.”
Pinyin: fú wù yuán
English: waiter, waitress, server
If you’re at a restaurant, the waitstaff is normally referred to as 服务员, a non-gender-specific term.
32. Surname + 先生 / 小姐
Pinyin: Surname + xiān sheng / xiǎo jiě
English: Mr. / Ms. [Surname]
To call people the equivalents of “Mr.” or “Ms.,” you would use Surname + 先生 for “Mr. + Surname,” and Surname + 小姐 for “Ms. + Surname.”
(wáng xiǎo jiě zài nǎ li?)
Where is Ms. Wang?
Please note that although 小姐 means “miss,” it’s best not to use that term on its own in mainland China, as it’s slang for “prostitute.”
Knowing Chinese terms of endearment will boost your Chinese social skills and improve your relationships with people who speak Chinese.
With the exception of the idiomatic expressions, the above Chinese terms of endearment are very much like the ones you already use in English—which makes it a lot easier to remember them in the long run.
Now that you’ve gotten to know all the different pet names, it’s time to start charming your way into the hearts of your Chinese friends!