As an innately lovely-dovey person, when I am learning a new language, I always want to learn early on how to show my affection and love in that language.
And it turns out, I’m not the only one.
During my language studies, I came across apps with modules specifically dedicated to flirting (a playful way to suggest that you like someone), as well as lessons in textbooks, handheld language dictionaries, and even whole class sessions that were focused on the language of love.
I’m not entirely surprised, though. I mean, love is the universal language.
Universal as it is, though, you still have to learn how to express those feelings in the language you are trying to communicate them in.
Fortunately for all you little love birds (people who are in love) out there, I’m about to share with you some of the most commonly used British terms of endearment so that you can start expressing the love and affection that is ablaze in your heart.
So let’s get started, shall we?
When to Use British Terms of Endearment
Before we move on to learning the actual terms, let’s first discuss on with whom you should use terms of endearment. Because these words and phrases express affection and love, you should only use them with people whom you are close to, care about or are in a relationship with to avoid creating an uncomfortable or inappropriate situation. No one likes to be called baby by a stranger!
British terms of endearment are best used with or toward:
- a girlfriend or boyfriend
- a member of your family
- a close friend
Learn to Speak Love: 20 British Terms of Endearment
Below are some of the most commonly used words and phrases to express love, affection or endearment, along with their meanings and sample sentences to give you an idea of how best to use them in conversation.
Single-word terms to express your love and affection toward someone
- Meaning: We usually use this word when we really like or care about someone, and have for quite some time. It’s perfect for couples.
- Example Sentence: Joe exclaimed to his wife, “Darling, I bought these flowers for you!”
- Meaning: We use sweetie or even sweetie pie in a playful way when we’re dating or we really like someone.
- Example Sentence: Dan greeted his girlfriend with a kiss and said, “Sweetie, I’ve missed you so much.”
- Meaning: Dear is used as both an adjective and a noun. As an adjective, we often use it to begin letters, (as in Dear John, Dear Sir, etc) or to refer to someone we care about. As a noun, we use it affectionately to refer to someone who is very kind, or who we care about a lot.
- Example Sentences: Rose was such a dear friend to me.
Ron said, “Nona has been a huge help during the break-up. She’s such a dear!”
- Meaning: This word is often used by couples or people who are emotionally very close to each other.
- Example Sentence: “Honey, are you making pancakes this morning?”
- Meaning: Hun is just a short form of honey and used in a similar context.
- Example Sentence: “Hun,” he texted her, “Any plans tonight?”
- Meaning: We use sweetheart the same way we use sweetie.
- Example Sentence: As soon as Mary saw her boyfriend, she ran up to him and said, “Sweetheart, where have you been?”
- Meaning: Cutie has a more general usage, referring to people in your social circle that you find physically appealing or adorable.
- Example Sentence: Reya is such a cutie with her new hairstyle.
- Meaning: This word is usually used in a playful and affectionate way by couples or people who have been dating for a while.
- Example Sentence: Zela asked her, “Baby, what’s wrong? You look so sad.”
- Meaning: We use this word to describe someone we find physically very attractive. It can also be used as a noun, in a manner similar to sweetheart or baby, to refer to a partner or to flirt with someone.
- Example Sentences: Hilda looks so sexy in that glittery black dress.
She asked him, “Hey, sexy, are you free tonight?”
- Meaning: Pet is a sweet, friendly and playful term for someone you feel affection for or find very endearing.
- Example Sentence: Jamie always finds a way to cheer me up; he’s such a pet!
Short phrases to express endearment
These short phrases are often used in the context of love. So whether you want to express your feelings or simply talk about a new relationship or a crush (someone that you’re attracted to) with your friends, these British terms of endearment are sure to help you out.
- Love at first sight
- Meaning: You know the feeling when you meet someone for the first time, and you feel an instant attraction? Well, that’s what this term is for.
- Example Sentence: For Aditya and Joseph, who have been together for a year now, it was love at first sight.
- Head over heels
- Meaning: When you meet someone who you find tremendously awesome, and you can’t stop thinking about them, you’re head over heels in love with them.
- Example Sentence: He giggles whenever she’s around. Of course, he’s head over heels in love.
- Meaning: Lovey-dovey is that cute and mushy feeling in your heart when you care for and really like someone.
- Example Sentence: He just bought her flowers, and now she looks all lovey-dovey.
- To the moon and back
- Meaning: When you tell someone that you love them to the moon and back, you’re basically telling them that you love them immensely. You can also use it toward family members and best friends.
- Example Sentence: Of course, I’ll always be there for you. I love you to the moon and back, remember?
- Match made in heaven
- Meaning: When you meet someone who seems perfect for you, you’re bound to say that it was a match made in heaven.
- Example Sentence: Rita and Himal instantly clicked, and I’ve never seen her happier. I think they’re a match made in heaven.
- Other half
- Meaning: We use this term to refer to a partner or a significant other.
- Example Sentence: Of course, he’s coming to my show. He’s my other half, after all.
- Those three words
- Meaning: As you may have guessed, those three words can only mean one thing: I love you.
- Example Sentence: Rosa told her best friend, “I care about him so much, and he knows it. I just wish he’d say those three words to me.”
- Have the hots for
- Meaning: When you find someone extremely attractive, and you have a crush on them, you basically have the hots for them.
- Example Sentence: I think you should give him a chance. He’s had the hots for you since the beginning of this semester.
- Apple of my eye
- Meaning: This is a term that refers to someone you care about or cherish beyond all others. You can use it with your partner or even with someone in your family.
- Example Sentence: Mita was always the apple of her father’s eye.
- Tie the knot
- Meaning: When you tie the knot, you’re getting married to the love of your life.
- Example Sentence: They have been dating for three years. I wonder if they’ll tie the knot soon and invite us to their wedding.
You Know What They Say: Practice Makes Perfect
Now that you know the words and phrases to use, it’s recommended that you practice them before you try them out on the apple of your eye or the one you have the hots for. Fortunately, there are some great resources and tips to help you perfect your love language.
- Watch British romantic movies with the subtitles on. This is an effective way to learn how these British terms of endearment are used in real-life. You can start by watching “Notting Hill,” “Love Actually,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “About Time.”
- Utilize the many features of FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into language learning experiences. When you sign-up with FluentU, you will have access to thousands of videos and clips to help you perfect those terms of endearment like a native speaker.
- Search for a study partner. Or use an app like HelloTalk to find a native speaker with whom you can practice your speaking skills.
- Record yourself or practice in front of a mirror. This is a good way to gain more confidence and fine-tune your smoothness and accent.
Whether you already have a sweetheart in mind or are just preparing for the day when that special someone steals your heart, it can’t hurt to brush up on your British terms of endearment! You never know when the moment will be right to say those three special words.
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, journalist, editor and educator. Feel free to check out her blog or contact her for freelancing/educational inquiries.
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