12 Commonly Used British Terms of Endearment (Plus Bonus Phrases for Affection)
As a lovey-dovey person, I love to learn how to express my affection for others when I study a new language.
In fact, there are often language lessons specifically dedicated to flirting (a playful way to suggest that you like someone).
In most languages, terms of endearment are best used with or toward certain people: someone you’re in a relationship with, a member of your family or a close friend. You don’t want to create an uncomfortable or inappropriate situation, of course.
Read on for 12 British terms of endearment (plus sample sentences), additional phrases used to express affection and how to practice all of them!
- British Terms of Endearment
- British Phrases for Expressing Affection
- Ways to Practice British Terms of Endearment
- And One More Thing...
British Terms of Endearment
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.
Joe exclaimed to his wife, “Darling, I bought these flowers for you!”
Meaning: Technically a shortening of the word “lover,” this is a very common nickname for partners to call each other. It can also be used very casually to refer sweetly to another person (even a stranger), which you may see written as “luv.”
Every time Cassie returned home, her husband greeted her by saying, “Hello, love, how was your day?”
“Excuse me, luv, I didn’t see you there.”
Meaning: We use sweetie or even sweetie pie in a playful way when we’re dating or we really like someone.
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’s very kind, or who we care about a lot.
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.
“Honey, are you making pancakes this morning?”
Meaning: Hun is just a short form of honey and used in a similar context.
“Hun,” he texted her, “Any plans tonight?”
Meaning: We use sweetheart the same way we use sweetie.
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.
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’ve been dating for a while.
Zela asked her, “Baby, what’s wrong? You look so sad.”
Meaning: This is a casual way to refer to someone you like or cherish. Like “baby,” this is typically reserved for couples, though some girls may use this term with their female friends.
“Fancy going out for a drink, babes?”
Meaning: We use this adjective 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.
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.
Jamie always finds a way to cheer me up; he’s such a pet!
British Phrases for Expressing Affection
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 sayings 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rita and Himal instantly clicked, and I’ve never seen her happier. I think they’re a match made in heaven.
Meaning: We use this term to refer to a partner or a significant other.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They have been dating for three years. I wonder if they’ll tie the knot soon and invite us to their wedding.
Ways to Practice British Terms of Endearment
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 English love language:
- Watch British romantic movies with 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” or “About Time.”
- Find a study partner. You can do an in-person language exchange or use an app to find a native speaker with whom you can practice your speaking skills. HelloTalk or Tandem are good places to start your search.
- 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. Pretend you’re chatting with a cute stranger and let the words flow out.
- Try using an immersion language learning program. For example, FluentU uses videos to teach you the English that native speakers really use.
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 can also see how they compare to American terms of endearment and other positive phrases in English. After all, you never know to whom you’ll want to say those three special words!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.