Looking for Cute French Words? 20 Adorable Expressions to Know
I’ll never forget that moment as I raised my hand in French class.
I knew I shouldn’t ask. I knew it wouldn’t lead to any good.
But, I was just too curious—and, apparently, too lazy to Google it.
“Ça veut dire quoi, ‘tit loup?” (What does “little wolf” mean in French?), I asked.
The teacher, a gruff looking man in his 50’s, looked at me dryly and responded, “Who calls you ‘tit loup?”
“My girlfriend,” I said, startled to hear other students in the class chuckle. Again, I knew I shouldn’t have asked.
“Oh mon dieu, c’est trop mignon.” (Oh my god, that’s too cute). My teacher laughed and needless to say, I was henceforth known as ‘tit loup for the rest of the semester.
As it turns out, this small expression my girlfriend used is a term of endearment, in the same way that “honey” or “sweetie” is in English.
To make sure that you never ask the same humiliating question in your own French class, I’ve compiled a list of 20 cute french words and their meanings right here.
But first, let’s take a look at a very important small word…
A Little Word to Make Any French Expression Sound Cute
Using the right tone of voice, it’s easy to make any French expression sound cute.
Being able to change your tone is why in most languages there are so many “cute words” to choose from. As you’re looking through the following list, you’ll notice a common theme accompanying the cute French words.
You can add the term petit(e) (little) to make them even cuter and, as my girlfriend had done, shorten the word to ‘tit (‘lil).
In Paris, I’ve had many friends recently tell me that the trend is to attach this petit mot (little word) to a random term or expression to make it more charming.
In theory, you could make anything sound sweet by throwing the word petit in front of it and raising your voice an octave or two.
So, for example, rather than telling your friends or significant other that you’ve bought them a cadeau (gift) or have a surprise (surprise) lined up for them, you’d actually say something like “J’ai un petit cadeau pour toi” (I have a little gift for you) or “J’ai une petite surprise pour toi” (I have a little surprise for you) to make it more endearing to the listener.
Keep this in mind as you go through the following list. While “cute” on their own, these words can usually be enhanced by throwing a little petit(e) in front of them.
20 Cute French Words That Will Melt Your Heart
1. Un bisou (kiss)
Note that in French Québec, this word can be shortened to bee with your children.
You would use this term in two ways: first, literally meaning a physical kiss or, second, as a way of verbally saying goodbye.
Donne-moi un bisou. (Give me a kiss.)
To say goodbye:
2. Des bijoux (jewelry)
While there’s no special use of the term, phonetically it simply sounds nice with the soft “j” followed by the oh-so-French “ou.”
Ma conjointe m’a donné des bijoux pour mon anniversaire. (My partner gave me jewelry for my birthday.)
Quick note: This word is always used in the plural just like in English. You can’t have un bijoux (a jewelry). You need des bijoux (some jewelry).
3. Ma belle/mon beau (my beautiful/my handsome)
Usually, belle (beautiful) and beau (handsome) are adjectives that describe a noun. However, when the possessive article ma or mon (my) is attached to it, it can then be an endearing pet name for a loved one, usually a romantic partner (though not exclusively).
Salut ma belle! Tu m’a manqué hier. (Hello beautiful, I missed you yesterday.)
4. Ma joie (my joy)
Joie (joy) is a very cute French word in itself. Something about it just denotes its meaning: happiness. It makes sense, then, that it would be used as a sweet term for the ones you love.
Again, it’s usually used romantically but could also be used by a parent toward their child (though not in reverse).
Je t’adore, ma joie. (I love you, my joy.)
Note: Because joie is feminine, you would use this expression exactly as is when speaking to a boyfriend/husband. The possessive pronoun does not change to mon joie.
5. Un câlin (hug or cuddle)
This term is very near and dear to my own heart because I use it with my young children quite often. In this regard, un câlin can be used both romantically and platonically and does not denote anything more than familial or friendly affection.
Donne-moi un câlin. (Give me a hug.)
Note: In Québec, you also have the phrase côlle-moi (hug me) as an informal verb that literally means “stick to me.” You wouldn’t say this in France, however, as the more common expression would be embrasse-moi (hug me).
6. Un canard (duck)
For some reason, this word has made its way into the world of French cuteness. This is the perfect example of how you can take a seemingly random term and add the word petit to make it even cuter. This is more often used by parents when speaking with their kids and is a great way to embarrass a teenager in front of his/her friends.
N’oublie pas ton sac à dos mon petit canard! (Don’t forget your backpack, my little duck!)
7. Sa suce (pacifier or binky)
From the verb sucer (to suck), a baby’s pacifier is known as une suce. Like in English, pretty much anything associated with babies or puppies will have a sweet connotation.
This is a great way to start introducing French to your baby.
You’ll notice, however, that the article sa (his) is used instead of ma (my). That’s because by the time someone learns to speak, they typically don’t have a pacifier anymore!
Oooo le petit bébé. Il adore sa suce! (Oh the little baby. He loves his pacifier!)
8. Mon chat (cat)
The literal and more common use of this word simply refers to a cat. However, you can also use it as a term of endearment when speaking to someone you love.
Though it can be used romantically later on in a relationship, it’s probably not the “sexiest” term when just starting out. It’s safest to keep this expression for marriage and children.
Même après 10 ans, je t’adore encore mon chat. (Even after 10 years, I still love you, my cat.)
9. Petit loup (little wolf)
Ah yes, the dreaded ‘tit loup (little wolf). This is an expression most often used for children but can sometimes be used in romantic relationships, as we learned in the introduction of this article. An alternative would be to say mon loup, but adding the shortened ‘tit makes it much cuter.
Viens manger, ‘tit loup! Le dîner est prêt! (Come eat, little wolf! Dinner is ready!)
10. Petit tannant (little annoying one)
This is definitely an expression you’ll only hear in Québec and is reserved for parents speaking to their children. Though it sounds harsh, it’s actually a sweet term. The best expression in English that would resemble the meaning would be the Australian or British word “cheeky.”
This expression isn’t used when a child is really annoying you (there are plenty of options for that) but when they are being a little playful or silly.
Pourquoi est-ce que tu lances tes jouets, petit tannant? (Why are you throwing your toys, cheeky one?)
11. Un minou (kitty)
This doesn’t just make a great pet name for people, but also a great pet name for pets! I’ve had lots of friends name their cat, dog or hamster minou (kitty) because they’ve found it to be a sweet name. And it is! Hearing this word in an authentic French accent makes it easy to see why it’s one of the cutest French words around.
This term can be used either romantically or platonically.
Salut minou, donne-moi un câlin! (Hello kitty, give me a hug!)
12. Mon colibri (hummingbird)
This is a word that can sound either cute or harsh depending on who is speaking, so make sure you practice! A lot of anglophones find it difficult to pronounce the french “r” sound just after the consonant “b.” You’ll want to make sure you get it right before using the term but, when you do, you’re sure to impress your significant other!
Tu es trop beau, mon colibri. (You’re so handsome, my hummingbird.)
Note: This noun is always masculine but can be used for both men and women. Just be sure to keep the possessive mon (my) in all cases.
13. Mon poulet (my chicken)
A lot like canard (duck) as seen above, this term is another example of how farm animals can make their way into the world of love. More common than canard, poulet (chicken) is said for the animal, the meat and when speaking to a baby, toddler or significant other.
Plus, it just sounds adorable!
Je t’aime, mon petit poulet. (I love you, my little chicken.)
This phrase is great when you’re beginning to expose your children to French through speaking, videos and children’s books!
14. Mon vieux (my old friend, or like the general use of “man” in English)
This can be a bit of a weird one to figure out. It can be used among old friends or as a polite way to refer to a stranger. It’s like the equivalent of “man” in English (as in, “Hey man, can I get a menu?”) and is usually—though certainly not always—used by men to other men non-romantically.
Salut mon vieux, ça fait longtemps qu’on s’est parlé. Comment ça va? (Hello old friend, it’s been a long time since we last talked! How are you?)
15. Un papillon (butterfly)
Just like in English, this word brings a lot of “cuteness” to mind. Butterflies are universally considered to be one of the most beautiful insects on the planet. As such, it’s no surprise that this word is used to refer to a loved one, typically romantically.
Plus, phonetically, it just sounds gorgeous.
Je t’aime, mon beau papillon. (I love you, my beautiful butterfly.)
Note: Keep in mind that this is a masculine noun. Many people make the mistake of saying ma papillion because they (wrongly) associate it with feminine qualities.
16. Ma coccinelle (ladybug)
This is another insect that has made its way onto our cute list. Like papillon (butterfly), ladybugs are beautiful creatures! As such, they’re often used as a sweet pet name for loved ones, but typically not in the romantic sense. This would be said more often in a parent-daughter relationship.
Aujourd’hui tes cheveux sont trop beaux, ma coccinelle! (Your hair is so beautiful today, my ladybug!)
17. Ma poupette (a sweet name for a young girl or woman)
This one is nearly the same in British English (“poppet”) and is simply an expression used for a small female child or a young woman. Be careful with this one, however, as it could be incredibly insulting unless you’re using it with someone you know very well.
The best use for this would be for a young female relative (meaning a daughter, granddaughter or niece) ages five and younger or as a term saved for your girlfriend/wife (assuming it doesn’t annoy her).
Misusing this term can lead to a terrible, or terribly funny, language mistake, depending on whom you’re speaking with. The amount of insult and inappropriateness in calling a female colleague “sweetie” in English is about what you’d expect when using poupette in the wrong context.
Bonne anniversaire, ma poupette! Tu as déjà quatre ans! (Happy birthday my poppet! You’re already four years old!)
18. Ma foi (my faith)
This term has older, religious connotations but is now used as a sweet name for a loved one, usually romantically.
It has a bit of poetry to it and is more formal than, let’s say, mon poulet. Not as commonly used as the others, this cute French word is one that’s sure to melt your lover’s heart.
Je ne te quitterai jamais, ma foi! (I will never leave you, my faith!)
19. Mon étoile (my star)
Nothing is sweeter than looking up at the stars on a clear, crisp night. As such, the term étoile (star) is used as an affectionate term for someone you love and, in most cases, are proud of. A little less heavy than the common use of “rockstar” in English, mon etoile (my star) denotes a sense of affectionate pride for the person you’re speaking to.
C’était une belle performance, mon étoile! (It was a great performance, my star!)
20. Mon avenir (my future)
Much like ma foi (my faith), this term is a little old-fashioned and poetic in nature. You won’t hear this phrase used too often in real life but will likely see it in sweet cards or novels. You may also hear it in older French movies, so it’s good to have under your vocabulary belt.
Je t’aimerai pour toujours, mon avenir. (I will love your forever, my future.)
Bonus: Face de pet (fart face, for babies)
One of the most bizarre expressions I’ve ever encountered in my life was after my first child was born. My extended family, who are Québecois, referred to my new son as face de pet, or “fart face.”
After asking around, I learned that this is a very common expression used for babies and young toddlers to let them know how cute they are (it’s even on t-shirts!). Though I’ve never fully understood it, I’d be lying if I said this cute french phrase hasn’t made its way into my vocabulary.
Ooo le beau bébé… petit face de pet. (Oh the handsome baby… little fart face.)
Knowing these cute French words can have some real advantages.
First of all, you’ll be an all-around more fluent speaker and avoid embarrassment in social situations (or, if you misuse the terms, you’ll bring on loads of it). It can be intimidating enough learning a new language, so when it comes to having vocabulary in your toolbelt, you can never be overprepared.
Secondly, whether your significant other is a native French speaker or not, these endearing terms are sure to melt their ears and their hearts.
Turns out, there’s a reason why French is the language of love!