french terms of endearment

21 Must-know French Terms of Endearment for Friends, Family and Lovers

Have you expressed your love in French yet?

We know you love the beautiful language itself—that’s a dead giveaway, but how about a person, a French person?

It doesn’t have to be a French lover. It can be a best friend, homestay mother or father, sister or brother.

There are endless ways to show admiration for someone other than saying “je t’aime” (I love you) in French.

Like English, French terms of endearment with cute phrases attached to them are what help emphasize comfort and confidence in any relationship.

As a French learner, part of your learning goal is to sound, talk and act like a native, that goes without being said. Vocabulary and grammar are important—yes, but so is cultural immersion.

And believe it or not, part of thinking like a French native involves replacing names with terms of endearment!

Not only that, but the French also quite enjoy adding small, little endings (the diminutive) to certain words to simply make them sound cuter.

We’re going to explore all of this here, so by the end of this post you should be feeling like a natural-born French romantic!

Before getting into our list of terms of endearment, we’re going to warm up by diving into French diminutive endings, which I mentioned above.
 


 
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What’s Le Diminutif (The Diminutive)

The diminutive in French can sometimes get out of hand, and this goes for most Romance languages, i.e. Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, etc.

While it may exist somewhat in English, it’s not at all the same. Two English examples using the diminutive go something like this:

1. itsy, bitsy

2. tubsy, wubsy

The first one we tend to associate with a spider: the “itsy, bitsy, spider.”

While the spider is probably not at all small, perhaps the biggest, most disgusting, scariest ginormous spider we’ve ever seen—the diminutive does its job to help ease the fear by adding an itsy, bitsy (in this case) before the word spider.

Itsy, bitsy is replacing the normal English word little.

See where this is going?

The second example, tubsy, wubsy, is well, a lighter, nicer way to call someone overweight.

Tubsy, wubsy is replacing the word tub. Calling someone a huge tub is terribly mean, so by changing it to tubsy, we are lightening the mood. The diminutive does its work here because while we’re straight up pointing out someone or something as “fat,” we are still sounding cute. Thus, avoiding any arguments, fights—you get the picture.

Are there any other English diminutive examples you can think of?

In French, the diminutive is semi-similar, the difference is that it could work for almost any word, making it all the more confusing.

Some French diminutive words are even considered official dictionary ones!

What they do is add a suffix to the end of regular French words. The lucky thing is that there are only two endings to remember.

French Diminuitive Suffixes

1. –et (masculine)

2. -ette (feminine)

At the end of masculine words, an –et is added to make nouns (person, place or thing) seem smaller (diminutive). And an –ette is added at the end of feminine words to make those seem smaller. Such as:

un livre (a book) can become un livret — a booklet (masculine)

un jardin (a garden) becomes un jardinet — a small garden (masculine)

une cuisine (a kitchen) becomes une cuisinette — a small kitchen (feminine)

une fille, une fillette — a little girl (feminine)

And so on…

While this rule may be true for most French words—the rules do bend a bit, like we see in all languages.

For instance, there are times when a feminine suffix is added to the end of a masculine word.

What’s that all about?

You’ll see what I mean when we get to our list of French terms of endearment—that reminds me. Let’s go right ahead and not get too carried away here!

Just remember to keep the diminutive rule under your belt so you won’t get lost as we go over the list.

21 Must-Know French Terms of Endearment for a Lover or Friend

Note: The list is in no particular order, but I am organizing the words into two groups. The first will be “the regulars” and the second will be “the animal names.”

Of all the hundreds of funny, endearing pets names for a lover or friend in French, these 21 are the most popular amongst native speakers. That can change though, depending on regions within France—or even French Quebec, so don’t take my entire word for it.

To get used to slinging around authentic French language across regions, try learning French with FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

So why 21? Well because 20 would be too cliché—and so is the endearing term, mon amour—we all know what that means! Which is why I didn’t include it in this list, if you’re left wondering later.

1. Mon cœur

English translation: My heart

I consider mon cœur another overrated endearing term, but I couldn’t skip it due to its popularity, and especially not after already taking the spotlight away from mon amour.

Mon cœur (my heart) is simply not regularly used at all in English, do you agree? I’ve literally only heard it in a movie:

And you’re my heart, kid. Now, could I live without my heart?

That’s a line from the movie “Blow”and that’s about it.

I would say that mon cœur translates—though not literally—to, “my sweetheart.”

Both of these puffed up terms (mon amour and mon cœur) should solely be sincerely said within a loving, unconditional, passionate relationship.

I say unconditional because it’s very common for parents (in France and other Romance-language speaking countries) to constantly refer to their children as mon cœur, mon amour or even ma vie (my life).

I believe this endearment-expressing quality is common among English-speaking homes too though.

On the other hand, the French do also enjoy flaunting these somewhat serious phrases to anyone, and I mean anyone.

The French are better lovers right? Well, that’s a bit too simple, because they’re part of a different culture altogether. They might be more verbally friendly than anything else, but that’s up to you to decide when you visit France someday.

2. Ma moitié

English translation: My other half

While it is more literally translated as “my other half” in English, I’d like to put it as “my better half” instead, because this is how English speakers generally say it. Doesn’t it just click and sound somewhat more natural?

In translation, the key is to find the exact feeling a word gives you, or the closest equivalent idiom for a phrase. Although we like to be exact most of the time, it’s good to forget about the literalness of things sometimes.

I’m not saying that you can’t translate ma moitié to “my other half,” it makes perfect sense.

But for some reason, the more popular English version, “my better half,” felt the need to make our other halves more special by putting them up on a pedestal (even though some of our stubborn selves may not actually believe our other halves are better than us).

To be honest, I like the French version way “better.” Simply, ma moitié.

Je besoin de ma moitié !
I need my other half (better half)!

Ma moitié is, like in English, usually said to a “partner in crime,” or a “main squeeze”—whether it be your best friend, sister, brother or lover.

3. Doudou

English translation: My blankie or my cuddly thing

I know what you’re thinking…

Doudou sounds like—but I promise you! It’s not!

And it’s untranslatable! Great. So what does it literally mean?

It’s a child’s most cherished, unable-to-let-go item as a toddler, usually a stuffed animal or blankie they can’t sleep, live or breathe without. And you guessed it, it’s a widely used term of endearment by the French.

Unfortunately we don’t have an exact equivalent—and that’s too bad because I really like the sound of it.

So where does this endearing doudou derive from?

Creole roots.

According to international French speakers, particularly from African countries, such as the West Indies, doudou is a slang/casual term used to refer to a girlfriend or wife, and it’s technically only said to females. This may explain why today the French use it as an expression of endearment.

Keep in mind that despite its Creole roots, it can be said to both sexes when used as an endearing term in France and other French-speaking countries.

I’d say the closest word to doudou in our English endearment dictionary is “pookie,” which, like doudou, is a fun, wacky, yet cute way to call a lover.

Viens ici mon doudou !
Come here, my pookie!

I mean, could you please tell me why we use “pookie” in English?

It’s just one of those crazy inexplicable words.

Note: Don’t get doudou confused with dodo. If you know what dormir means, then you must know what dodo means. It’s a shorter/slang version of dormir, which translates to, “sleepy bye-bye.”

Dodo is not at all the same as doudou, but one way to remember the both is like this:

Pas de dodo sans ton doudou !
No sleep without your blankie!

4. Ma chérie

English translation: My darling

We have a perfect, winning translation in English! Yay!

Before you go and start celebrating, let me remind you that the French word chérie is more complex than you think.

Can you tell me the difference between chérie, chéri, cher and chère? Man, that’s a lot of chers (I can’t stop thinking about the singer! Is that where she got her name from? Good Google question).

Now back to chérie

Ma chérie and mon chéri both refer to “my darling,” the endearing term I am sharing with you here. The difference is that one is feminine (ma chérie, which is said to a female) and the other is masculine (mon chéri, which is said to a male).

The next two, ma chère (feminine) and mon cher (masculine) both translate to “my dear.” This would be the appropriate word to use when writing a letter or simply calling someone, “my dear.”

Like mon cœur and mon amour, ma chérie or mon chéri is said with an innocent, loving tone to either a lover or child, and even sometimes to a friend—especially in France.

Easier than you thought?

Tu es ma chérie pour toute la vie.
You’re my darling for all eternity.

5. Mon trésor 

English translation: My treasure

Mon trésor reminds me of a “The Lord of the Rings” movie. Remember Gollum/Schmiegel, who’s always saying “my precious”?

Yep! That’s what I would translate mon trésor to!

Although it literally means “my treasure,” in English, we don’t really use the word “treasure” to refer to a loved one. Jewels and stones can be precious, like “treasure”—see the correlation?

The only fault I would give my personal translation is the fact that it’s typically only said to females in English. Very rarely do we hear women call men, “precious.”

But if a mother calls a son “precious” in English, it would still be plausible.

In French, mon trésor can be said to both males and females, friends, family and children.

No one is going to look at you like you have ten heads for calling a dude a piece of “treasure.” If he’s a hunk of a French man, go right ahead and call him mon trésor!

X marks the spot!

6. Mon ange

English translation: My angel

Here’s another of those obvious ones.

In English we use “my angel” as a favored term of affection.

Other forms include, “angel face,” “my sweet angel,” etc.

And its French counterpart, mon ange, is just as favored. It can be used for both sexes and toward children.

Elle est mon âme, elle est mon cœur, elle est mon ange.

She is my soul, she is my love, she is my angel. (Lyrics from a song called “Elle” by Mélissa M).

7. Mon chou

English translation: My cabbage

This is the only endearing word on the list that’s related to food.

Yes, chou means “cabbage,” but what this phrase actually conveys is “my favorite one.”

This is where things start to get a little tricky, because there are other variations of mon chou to make them sound cuter (remember that diminutive lesson?).

List of varieties include:

ma choupette (f)  here mon chou is converted into the feminine form, which is used for females only.

mon choupinou (m) / ma choupinette (f)  this makes the phrase even cuter.

mon chouchou (m) / ma chouchoutte (f) — another way to make the name sound cute.

mon petit chou (my little cabbage)  can only be said to males or little boys.

English equivalent?

I’d say “pumpkin,” “pumpkin pie, “baby cakes” or any other name referring to food.

8. Mon bébé

English translation: My baby

Notice that the word bébé is masculine—it can’t be changed!

You’re probably asking yourself, “how am I supposed to know when to covert?”

It’s a knowledge that comes with practice and learning. You’re not a French native just yet—don’t be so hard on yourself!

French natives are technically born with this knowledge, so they just know when masculine words can change and be used toward females or not, etc. They also practice plenty in school.

Bébé is up on the “obvious” list with mon cœur, mon trésor, ma chérie and mon amour—typical.

Anyone can be a baby. And as in English and French, this nickname can be given to nearly anyone, even your cats or dogs!

Speaking of animals…let’s move on to some French terms of endearment with animal names.

9. Mon chaton

English translation: My kitten

Mon chaton—just like that, can be said to both sexes.

Similar to mon chou, mon chaton also has many cute varieties:

mon chatounet (m) / ma chatounette (f)

minou (masculine only)

minet (m) / minette (f)

mon p’tit chaton (my little kitty, unisex)

All of these mean “little kitty,” but only certain ones can be said to males or females.

Tu es ma minette.
You’re my kitty witty (said only to a woman).

10. Mon lapin

English translation: My rabbit

Mon lapin is easily unisex, used for children and all.

Like chaton, there are also other diminutive versions of lapin that help make the French endearing term sound all the cuter:

lapinou (m)

lapinet (m)

Just to throw it out there, according to my French source, mon lapin is commonly said to males and young boys.

Young girls, daughters for example, can be referred to a lapin, but unfortunately there isn’t a feminine conversion for this endearing name (as you might’ve noticed). That still doesn’t mean that a female can’t be a honey bunny!

“Honey bunny” is the perfect equivalent, don’t you think?

11. Ma puce

English translation: My flea

Yes, a feminine word!

I know I said that none of these were in any particular order regarding popularity, but as for personal experience, ma puce is pretty popular.

I’ve heard it with my own ears, amongst friends, lovers and children.

And as with most animal names, ma puce also has its diminutive varieties:

ma petite puce (f) — little flea

ma pupuce (f) — tiny, little flea

What’s so cute about a flea? Beats me. Because they’re small?

The French have their ways.

We don’t have an equivalent, so I’d say “sweetie” fits just fine.

Note: Ma puce can be said to both males and females, even if it’s a feminine word!

Je t’aime ma petit puce!
I love you sweetie pie!

12. Mon poussin

English translation: My chicky

Poussin actually translates to “chick,” not like a “hot babe, chick,” but a “baby chicken.”

We’re talking about animals here.

And so as it goes, while it’s a masculine word it’s still unisex with diminutive varieties!

mon poussinet (m) / ma poussinette (f) — A cuter version of “chicky” with a feminine version as well.

Our English translation for this cuter version? I think “chicky-poo” could suffice.

13. Mon loulou

While loulou doesn’t actually mean anything, it’s believed to derive from loup, which in French means “wolf.”

Loulou could technically be the diminutive of loup, but both are completely separate from each other.

Unfortunately there’s no translation for mon loulou.

Other versions do include:

ma louloute (f) /ma louloutte (f) — both mean the same, just preference of spelling (female version).

mon loup (m) — my wolf (said to males only)

Keep in mind that mon loulou and mon loup are only said to men or boys—no exceptions.

I would say that mon loup is the equivalent to “sparky.” You wouldn’t really sincerely call a woman “sparky” now, would you?

14. Mon oisillon

English translation: My little birdie.

Oiseau is the word for “bird” in French, so oisillon is the diminutive.

Another phrase includes:

mon petit oiseau — my little bird

Both mon oisillon and mon petit oiseau are commonly said to males and females. There’s no preference.

English equivalents may include “my little lovey dovey,” “my little birdie” or “my little dove.”

15. Mon nounours

English translation: My teddy bear

Although the technical phrase is mon ours (my bear), the diminutive version here, mon nounours, is more popular.

French natives are more likely to use mon nounours because it’s cute, duh.

And like mon loup, it should only be used toward males—females are excluded from this one (sorry, ladies).

English translations include, “my little teddy bear” or “my teddy bear.”

Demain je sors avec mon petit nounours.
Tomorrow I’m going out with my little teddy.

16. Ma biche

English translation: My doe

Okay, now here’s one for the ladies!

And I know at first glance the French word may look a little off, but it doesn’t have anything to do with female dogs!

It’s actually a female deer—a doe, a deer, a female deer!

Other written styles include:

ma bichette 

ma bibiche

Both for females only!

17. Ma Caille

English translation: My quail

These next four terms of endearment on the list all have to do with the bird species, so that makes a total of five, including mon poussin. 

Ma caille (another feminine word) can be frequently said to both women and men. There are no other variations of ma caille (my quail) in French.

It’s hard to translate considering we don’t really have an equal in our own language.

Tu es la plus belle caille de toutes.
You are the most beautiful “chickie-poo” of all.

Another note:

The word caille has a double meaning in French. It’s slang for “freezing,” so don’t get the two mixed up!

Ça caille !
It’s freezing!

18. Mon coco

English translation: My hen

I know you know a “hen” is a female bird, so you’re probably wondering why the word coco is masculine. That’s just the way it is!

Mon coco, “my hen,” does have a female version: Ma cocotte.

So, if you’re thinking about calling your French female lover a hen, don’t forget to convert it!

19. Mon caneton

English translation: My duckling

Canard, as most of you might know, means “duck” in French.

It’s a crowd pleasing dish found on most French menus—is it all coming back to you now?

Mon caneton, “my duckling,” is the charming, cuter way to express love while still talking about ducks.

There are no variations for this phrase, but it can be used for both males and females.

Disregard the “masculinity” of the word.

20. Ma poule

English translation: My chicken

What’s the deal with poultry in France? They eat a heck of a lot of it, so that can explain why there are so many endearing terms that pay homage to French culinary culture.

Ma poule, like mon poussin, refers to “chickens,” and endearingly means “chickie-poo.”

Although ma poule is unisex, other variations include:

mon poulet (m) — this version can only be said to males

ma poulette (f) — females only

21. Ma crevette

English translation: My shrimp

Last but not least, ma crevette. It’s a feminine word with a diminutive ending! How sweet!

This one can go both ways—animal-related or food-related endearing name. The best English equivalent I’d give it is “munchkin.”

Shrimps are a type of food some of us eat, and so are munchkins! (From Dunkin’ Donuts). It’s small, cute and fun, which is why I chose that translation.

We simply don’t call our lovers or friends “little shrimp” to express love and fondness.

In fact, a “little shrimp” in English is the opposite. It degrades a person, implying that they’re weak, squirmy and small. This does not hold the same meaning in French.

So let’s leave it at “munchkin!” Ma crevette can be for both the guys and gals.

Je t’aime ma petite crevette!
I love you my little munchkin!

 

So, there you have it!

21 ways to kindly let someone you’re dearly fond of them in French.

And it still doesn’t end there.

Like language, the list keeps going, so keep exploring!
 


 

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