90+ American Terms of Endearment for Friends, Family and Romantic Partners
When was the last time a person you love actually called you by your real name?
Instead of using names, people often use terms of endearment, or cute, loving nicknames.
Some people use them for people whose names they don’t know, while others only use them with their husband or wife or with their families.
In this post, we’ll cover 90+ American nicknames and terms of endearment you can use for kids, friends, family and even strangers!
- Nicknames for Kids
- Nicknames for Friends
- Nicknames for Family Members
- Nicknames for Romantic Partners
- Flirty Nicknames
- Cool English Nicknames
- More Unique English Nicknames
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Nicknames for Kids
Many languages have a special ending that you can add to a word or name to make it cuter and smaller (like -chka or -chek in Russian, and -ito or -ita in Spanish, for example). English does not use many special endings like this. Instead, they use cute terms of endearment for kids.
Before we get started, note that some terms of endearment listed in this post may be acceptable for a range of people or relationships. For example, the English nickname sweetie is often used both by people in relationships and by parents to their children.
Here are some of the most common adorable ways American English uses to refer to kids. Although modern American society is trying to be less concerned with genders, there are still some nicknames that are much more commonly used with boys or girls, exclusively. We’ve split the list up by genders to highlight this.
- Kiddo : This is a variation of “kid” which is most commonly used by parents, grandparents and other adults to address a child.
- Cheeky monkey : Monkeys are known to be mischievous, and so are children! If a child is a little bit naughty, their parents might use this term of endearment and call them a cheeky monkey. This term is often used in a loving and funny way.
- Cutie pie : This is a very common term of endearment used by parents and family friends or relatives to address young children.
- Little one : This term of endearment is mostly used when speaking to younger children. You’re less likely to hear it used for children over the age of around six years old. There are a number of different terms of endearment that you might come across that also use little, such as little man , little princess or even little monkey .
- Poppet : One pet name you almost never hear anymore is poppet, which is only used with small children. You might still hear an older person say it to their grandchildren or other young kids.
- Peanut : This cute and playful nickname is typically used for a small child.
- Sweetie : This loving nickname is used to express fondness and affection for a child. It can also be used as a term of endearment for nearly every person in your life—from your boyfriend to your best friend. The term is usually used for people of the same age or younger than you, so it would be odd to use it for your mother (but not odd for your mother to use it with you!).
- Cookie : Is your child a sweet little delight? You might use this slightly less common nickname with them!
- Bubby / Bubba : This cute term of affection can be used by parents and grandparents for their own kids and grandkids, as it expresses familiarity. You can also use it for your grandparents, since bubby is derived from Yiddish and means “grandparent”!
Nicknames for Boys
- Champ : This supportive nickname is meant to encourage and motivate a child, highlighting their strength and resilience.
- Sport : When someone is a “good sport,” they are polite in games, even when they lose. You can use this nickname for your little man who’s a good sport, or for an athletic boy. This term is more popular in the media (in movies and shows) than in real life.
- Buddy : Buddy is used in a similar way to kiddo by parents or close family friends to a child. However, while this term can be used with both young boys and girls, it’s most commonly used when addressing boys.
- Tiger : This nickname is used to symbolize strength, determination and a fighting spirit.
- Little Man : A term of endearment that acknowledges a boy’s growing independence and maturity.
- Buddy Bear : Animals are commonly used in nicknames. This cute one is an example of this, combining the affectionate “buddy” with a bear, used for a child who’s both ferocious and cute.
Nicknames for Girls
- Princess : This endearing nickname can be used with a little girl who’s very “girly” or who means a lot to you. Remember, though, that calling a girl a princess can also mean that she is whiny or spoiled (always expects to get what she wants). So be careful who you call a princess!
- Sunshine : If a girl is bright and sunny, you can use this sweet nickname with her.
- Bunny : A playful and adorable term that implies a girl’s cuteness and energetic nature.
- Precious : A term that expresses how valuable and cherished a girl is. Like with “princess,” watch your tone here–it can mean the opposite when said sarcastically!
Nicknames for Friends
Your friends hold a special place in your heart, so of course they get some awesome nicknames! From the loving and heartfelt to the ridiculous, here are some English nicknames for good friends.
- Bestie : This one’s used to show someone that they’re not just your friend—they’re your best friend!
- BFF (Best Friends Forever): An acronym that represents an unbreakable bond and lifelong friendship.
- Brother from Another Mother : This silly term is used to describe a male friend who feels like family even though you’re not actually related.
- Sis /Bro : These casual nicknames are very popular among friend or even acquaintances. “Bro,” especially, is a popular word that can be everything from a nickname for your friend to an exclamation of wonder (“Broooo, that’s awesome!”).
- Homie : This is a casual and friendly term for a close friend that’s used primarily in the African American and Latinx communities. You might hear it used, but unless you’re part of either community, it might be better not to try and use it yourself.
- Twin /Twinsies : This playful nickname is used with a friend or companion who has something similar to you, from their bag or haircut to their share interests. It’s primarily used by girls with other girls.
- Squad : A term used to describe a close-knit group of friends (generally males) who support each other or just hang out together often.
- Dude /Dudette : These informal nicknames for friends are used in a laid-back and friendly manner. Dudette isn’t very common, but dude is used in similar situations as bro.
- Pal : This nickname can be either friendly—like when it’s used by a co-worker to express appreciation—or it can be very unfriendly—like if someone says “listen here, pal,” they definitely aren’t calling you their friend. They’re angry about sometime!
- Angel : An angel is someone kind and sweet. Calling someone angel is saying that they’re so amazing, they’re out of this world!
- Dear : Someone dear to you is important to you. Your grandma might ask you to be a dear and help her with something, but the nickname isn’t common at all with the younger generation.
- Doll : This is another term of endearment for women more commonly used by older people. Note that today, the term is seen as somewhat negative and sexist, especially when it’s used by a man, implying the women who’s a “doll” is pretty but not very smart. More recently, the word has been accepted by the trans community to use among each other to refer to beautiful trans women.
- Love : Calling someone love shows that they mean a lot to you. You might use it with a significant other but you can also use it with very close friends, especially among women.
- Sugar : Sugar is a nickname that’s actually more commonly used with people you don’t know than with those who are close to you. It’s sometimes used to say that someone is “sweet” or “kind” and is more commonly heard in Southern United States.
- Sweetheart : Someone who has a kind heart can be called a sweetheart, which is another term that can be said to almost anyone. It’s okay to use this one with strangers. The receptionist at the doctor’s office might call you a sweetheart if she doesn’t know your name—but it’s also commonly used between couples or friends.
Nicknames for Family Members
American families tend to have silly nicknames for each other. My own daughter, for example, has decided to call me “mother” as a term of endearment, which gets her some confused looks from her friends. (“Mother” is a very formal, old-fashioned way to refer to your mom, but my kid uses it as her silly affectionate term.)
Check out some nicknames and terms of endearment for different family members in American English!
Nicknames for Parents
- Momma : A loving and affectionate term often used for mothers, especially in the south.
- Pops : This casual and endearing term for fathers emphasizes familiarity and closeness. It’s often used when talking about your father to someone else (“My pops…”).
- Mama Bear : This term symbolizes a mother’s protective and nurturing nature.
- Papa Bear : Like Mama Bear, this term signifies a father’s protective instincts. It’s also a warm and fuzzy kind of nickname.
- Mommykins /Daddykins : These cute and playful terms of endearment adds an affectionate twist to “mommy” or “daddy.” The suffix -kin or -kins means “little,” and you can add it to other words to express a smallness, like lambkins and babykin .
- Parental Unit : This humorous term playfully acknowledges a parent’s role as the authority figure. It comes from the 1993 movie “Coneheads,” in which a group of aliens used it to refer to the parents of the family.
- Momster /Dadster : These affectionate nicknames for parents combine the words mom and dad with the word monster. They’re usually used in a positive, playful way.
Nicknames for Siblings
- Sis /Bro : You saw these terms already in the “nicknames for friends” section. But, since they literally are shortened versions of “sister” and “brother,” sis and bro can be used to talk to or about your actual sister or brother, too.
- Lil’ Sis /Lil’ Bro : These are endearing terms for a younger sister or brother.
- Sibster : A combination of “sibling” and “sister,” this one’s used to refer to a sister with affection.
- Broseph : A playful term that combines “brother” and “Joseph,” conveying a sense of camaraderie and familiarity.
- Partner in Crime : A playful term used to describe a sibling (or friend!) with whom you share mischievous adventures and secrets.
- Sissy : A term used to affectionately refer to a sister, emphasizing the closeness and bond between siblings. The word sissy on its own is a mean way of calling someone, usually someone male, weak. So be sure that your sister knows that’s not what you mean if you use this one!
- Brozilla : Brothers can be real little monsters, so this cute nickname combines “brother” with the Japanese giant lizard monster “Godzilla.”
Nicknames for Other Family Members
- Nana /Papa : These are sweet and affectionate alternatives to “grandma” and “grandpa.”
- Grammy /Grampy : Another cute way to call your grandparents, often used by younger kids who have trouble pronouncing “grandma” and “grandpa.”
- Nanny /Poppy : Playful and fun terms that grandparents might enjoy being called.
- Meemaw /Pawpaw : These endearing names for grandparents evoke a sense of love and closeness and are used almost exclusively in the American south.
- Auntie : A term of endearment used for aunts, emphasizing their special role.
- Cuz : A casual and familiar nickname used for a cousin. It’s gender-neutral!
Nicknames for Romantic Partners
It’s amazing how many terms of endearment there are for romantic partners! From baby and honey to the outdated but adorable main squeeze, there are so many options! I personally haven’t used my husband’s real name for years now, opting instead to call him baby or big baby to differentiate from our daughter, who’s become little baby. Which of these romantic terms of affection best fits your significant other?
- Baby : The word baby is most commonly used in relationships. This term of endearment carries a deeper meaning of love and affection. It can sometimes be used for small children, too.
- Babe : When it’s not used as an affectionate name, babe is a very casual (and sometimes rude) way of saying “beautiful woman.” As a term of affection, though, it can mean a man or a woman, and is usually only used when you’re in a relationship with someone. Unlike baby, you wouldn’t use babe with children!
- Bae : Bae is a shortened version of babe and is commonly used as a term of endearment by people in a romantic relationship, especially online.
- Boo : This common slang term means boyfriend or girlfriend. This comes from the French word beau, meaning an admirer (someone who’s interested in you romantically). You’ll often hear this term in popular music and it can sometimes be used by friends to denote a feeling of closeness and affection.
- My Everything : A term that expresses the profound love and importance your partner holds in your life.
- Bunny : Bunnies are sweet and cute. It’s no wonder bunny is a common nickname for women! Like baby, bunny is one of those special words that are used in a relationship but can also be used as a cute nickname with kids. For an extra sweet nickname, try honey-bunny (this one’s for your significant other, only!).
- Darling : This term is another one that can be used in a range of relationships. You may have heard this one used in movies or music. Outside of movies, the term darling is still sometimes used by older people, usually by women to people they care about, or by men to their wives. It’s also common to hear this term used by mothers to their children.
- Honey : Sometimes shortened to hon or hun , the word honey works in almost any situation. While this is most often used in romantic relationships, it also works for a friend or a younger person.
- Main Squeeze : When talking to others about a boyfriend or girlfriend, they can be called your main squeeze. This is a very informal slang term that comes from the idea that this person is the one you love to hug (squeeze) the most. This phrase can also be used to mean “most important person.” Note, though, that this is a very outdated term and isn’t used very often anymore!
- Pumpkin : A sweet and endearing nickname typically used for a significant other, conveying warmth and affection.
- Muffin : Another sweet nickname that relies on desserts and food. You can use nearly any sweet treat as a term of endearment!
- Cupcake : This is another sweet nickname. Note that many of these can be used with friends and kids, as well, not just your significant other. Anyone who’s sweet can get this nickname!
- Babycake : What if you combine a dessert with another nickname? You might end up with something like babycake, a combination of “baby” and “cake.”
- Sugarplum : This sweet and delightful nickname evokes a sense of sweetness and charm.
- Buttercup : This sounds like it might be more food, but it’s actually a flower. It’s very cute and tender nickname for your loved one!
- Love /Lovebug : An affectionate term that signifies deep love and attachment to your partner.
- Honeybun : Another sweet term for your sweet significant other!
- Sweetums : This nickname is a less common, cute version of sweetie or sweetheart.
Some terms of endearment are flattering to the person—they make the person feel good about themselves. You can focus on a beautiful feature (a physical part of a person, like eyes or hair), or just call them beautiful.
- Blue eyes : When someone has beautiful eyes, you can use the color of their eyes as a term of affection. You can call them blue eyes or brown eyes , or any other eye color. (In fact, eyes are such an important trait that there are classic songs about both blue eyes and brown eyes!)
- Beautiful : Calling someone you don’t know beautiful is a way of flirting with them. When you call your love beautiful, it’s very flattering! Beautiful can only be used for women—you might call a man handsome instead (“hey there, handsome!”).
- Gorgeous : Gorgeous means “very beautiful,” and it’s used in the same way as beautiful. The biggest difference is that you can call a man gorgeous, too!
- Lover boy / Lover girl : A lover isn’t just someone you love—they’re someone who you’re intimate with. Love is a sweet nickname but lover boy or lover girl are more private and playful nicknames.
- Hottie : Saying someone is hot means you find them attractive, and a hottie is an attractive person. Be careful when you’re using this term with women you are not close with, because in that case it can be seen as a rude way of flirting! When you’re in a relationship with someone, though, hottie is a sweet nickname for both girls and guys.
- Stud /Studmuffin : This is a nickname that’s used by women to refer to attractive men in a flirtatious manner. The word comes from the world of horses: a stud is a male horse with good looks and good breeding who’s used to create more horses. Don’t worry, though: No one’s going to think that you’re calling them a horse!
- Sexy /Sexy Beast : This straightforward term is used to express attraction and desire in a playful and flirtatious manner.
- Hot Stuff : Use this nickname to show someone that you find them attractive.
- Dreamboat : This term is used to describe someone, usually male, who’s incredibly attractive and desirable. It’s usually used by women when talking to each other (as in, “He’s such a dreamboat!:”).
- Heartthrob : A nickname for someone who elicits strong romantic and physical attraction. They make your heart beat faster!
Cool English Nicknames
Do you need an awesome nickname for the cool guy or gal in your life? Try these!
- Maverick : This nickname is used for someone who’s independent, daring and has a unique personality.
- Ace : A term that signifies someone who’s highly skilled and capable.
- Rebel : A nickname for someone who goes against the grain and embraces a nonconformist attitude.
- Ninja : A cool and mysterious nickname that represents agility, skill and quick thinking.
- Rockstar : This term can be used to describe someone who’s charming or attracts (good) attention.
- Jet : This cool and fast-paced nickname signifies someone who’s always on the move.
- Slick : Use this nickname for someone who’s stylish and effortlessly cool.
- Dynamo : A term that highlights someone’s vibrant energy and enthusiasm.
More Unique English Nicknames
Sometimes nicknames are one-of-a-kind: unique to the people who use them. A term of endearment might describe a certain characteristic, an inside joke you have with that person and can even be quite silly to other people!
Here are some common factors linked to these unique nicknames:
- Food: A lot of made-up nicknames are related to food (like lamb chop or muffin ). They may also be inside jokes (jokes that only the people involved would understand).
- Location: If you know where someone is from, you can use that as their nickname. For example, you might greet a friend from New York by saying, “Hey, New York! What’s up?”
- Nonsense: Some nicknames are just nonsense. For example, everyone calls my father-in-law pancho and no one knows why!
- Silly names: Nicknames do not even have to be positive to be loving, like calling your loved one stinky . It can be funnier if the name means something negative, but make sure the other person actually likes their nickname and isn’t offended by it!
- Physical characteristics: Sometimes nicknames can also be linked to physical characteristics. Perhaps you might have a significant height difference with your friend and you call them shorty while they call you tower or skyscraper ! Americans also love irony, so you might find that the common nickname for the largest and tallest guy you’ve ever seen is tiny .
- Shortening of names or use of last names: In American English, many people’s names are shortened as terms of endearment. For example, someone called “William” might be called “Will” or even “Billy.” Last names are also frequently used. While these types of terms of endearment may not be as unique as the others in this list, they are very common.
Many of these terms of endearment can be used in different situations and types of relationships. The best way to understand when and how to use them is by consuming native English content to see how they are used in context by native speakers.
For example, you could watch American TV shows and movies and try to pick up on the different terms used by native speakers to address others.
Another resource you could use is FluentU. This language learning program uses native English videos like movie trailers and inspiring talks to immerse you in the language. Each video features interactive subtitles that you can use to hover over a word for its definition. You can also use the personalized quizzes and flashcards to go over any new terms of endearment or vocabulary you learn.
Immersing yourself in native content will help you understand how to use these terms of endearment so you can start using them in your own English conversations.
Check out this video for more examples and explanations to greet friends and family in English.
You now know 90+ American terms of endearment and how to use them.
It’s up to you to decide whether you will call your best friend stinky or your boyfriend angel… or the other way around!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)