chinese terms of endearment

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

chinese terms of endearment - pet names

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

English: baby

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).

2. 妻子

Pinyin: qī zi

English: wife

3. 丈夫

Pinyin: zhàng fu

English: husband

4. 老婆

Pinyin: lǎo pó

English: (informal) wife, wifey

5. 老公

Pinyin: lǎo gōng

English: (informal) husband, hubby

6. 老婆子

Pinyin: lǎo pó zi

English: (informal) wife, old lady

7. 老头子

Pinyin: lǎo tóu zi

English: (informal) husband, old man

8. 太太

Pinyin: tài tài

English: Mrs.

9. 先生

Pinyin: xiān sheng

English: Mister

10. 爱人

Pinyin: ài rén

English: lover, spouse

11. 情人

Pinyin: qíng rén

English: lover

12. 亲爱的

Pinyin: qīn ài de

English: beloved, dear, darling

13. 甜心

Pinyin: tián xīn

English: sweetheart

14. 女朋友

Pinyin: nǚ péng yǒu

English: girlfriend

15. 男朋友

Pinyin: nán péng yǒu

English: boyfriend

16. 傻瓜

Pinyin: shǎ guā

English: fool

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.

17. 笨蛋

Pinyin: bèn dàn

English: idiot

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.

18. 沉鱼落雁

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!

19. 心肝

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

chinese terms of endearment for family members

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.

20. 孩子

Pinyin: hái zi

English: child

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.

21. 虎子

Pinyin: hǔ zǐ

English: brave young man

This one literally means “tiger cub” or “tiger son.” 

22. 千金

Pinyin: qiān jīn

English: darling daughter

When literally translated, it means “1000 gold.”

23. + given name

Pinyin: ā + given name

English: nickname among siblings

Chinese Terms of Endearment for Friends

chinese terms of endearment for friends

24. 哥哥 / 弟弟 / 姐姐 / 妹妹

Pinyin: gē ge / dì di / jiě jiě / mèi mei

English: pal

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. + 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. + given name

Pinyin: + 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 /+ 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. + 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 for respect

Chinese terms of endearment aren’t just about showing love and affection—they can also be about showing respect.

28. 亲爱的同学们

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.”

30. 师傅

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.”

31. 服务员

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.”

For example:

(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.

It can help to see these (and other new vocabulary) in use naturally to really understand how to use them. You can do this on FluentU, which is a language learning program that’s based on native Chinese videos paired with powerful learning tools.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

FluentU Ad

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!

And One More Thing...

If you want to continue learning Chinese with interactive and authentic Chinese content, then you'll love FluentU.

FluentU naturally eases you into learning Chinese language. Native Chinese content comes within reach, and you'll learn Chinese as it's spoken in real life.

FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos.

FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.

FluentU's Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you're learning.

The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a 100% personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe