german terms of endearment

10 German Terms of Endearment That Will Charm Your Pants Off

There’s a certain stereotype about the German language; namely, that it’s harsh.

The language of commands. Of exacting precision. Of philosophy.

But could German be a language of love? Forget it, right? We’re not talking about French or Italian here.

Believe it or not, there are actually plenty of sweet and cute ways to tell your significant other that you love them auf Deutsch. Read on to learn everything you need to know about German terms of endearment.
 


 
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Key Things to Know About German Terms of Endearment

1. Many of them are derived from animal names.

In English, we say “sweetie,” “honey,” “babe” or, maybe, if we’re elderly grandmas, “pumpkin.” German terms of endearment, however, stem largely from the animal world. If you’ve ever wanted to call your girlfriend “little bear” or “magic mouse,” you’ve come to the right language.

2. Many of them are suitable for children or significant others.

Some of German’s pet names are interchangeable for children or partners. Others are better suited to one or the other. Make sure to pay attention to the difference, so you don’t embarrass yourself by calling your new German boyfriend by the same pet name his mother used for him when he was five.

3. When it comes to “I love you” in German, there are a few crucial differences in the way you say it.

In English, you either tell someone you like them or you love them. In German, there’s a step between like and love. Ich habe dich lieb (I love you) is a less intense version of Ich liebe dich (I love you). Make sure you’re saying what you mean—you don’t want to scare off your new suitor!

4. They’re all about diminutive forms.

Diminutive forms in German are basically the cute version of a word; as you can imagine, many terms of endearment rely on the diminutive forms of ordinary German words.

You form the diminutive by adding -chen or -lein to the end of a word. So, for example, Bär (bear) becomes Bärchen (little, cute bear). You can also make a German word cute by adding -i to the end. For example, Maus (mouse) would become Mausi. Remember that diminutive nouns are always neutral, so they take the das pronoun.

10 German Terms of Endearment to Know

Learn these terms of endearment, and you’ll be wooing Germans from Munich to Cologne in no time.

1. Schatz (der)

What does it mean literally?

Jewel, gem or treasure.

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it? 

Schatz is the most common German term of endearment, according to surveys. Couples all over the country call each other this pet name or one of its many cute forms, such as Schätzchen (little treasure) or Schatzi (little treasure).

It’s also very common to use with children. Go to any playground in Berlin and you’ll hear the word Schatz flying around from moms and dads.

2. Maus (die)

What does it mean literally?

Mouse.

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it?

Believe it or not, you can use this term of endearment for your significant other, although it’s also quite common for use with small children. If you’re using it with a child, however, you might want to transform it into the diminutive form, Mäuschen or Mausi (both mean “little mouse”).

This name is more popular for women, and it ranks in the top five of popular German terms of endearment.

3. Hase (der)

What does it mean literally?

Bunny.

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it?

Rumor has it that this one’s more commonly used for woman than for men, so tread carefully if you’re using it with a boyfriend or husband. Like Maus (mouse), Hase can be made cuter with diminutives, such as Häschen or Hasi.

4. Bärchen

What does it mean literally?

Little bear.

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it?

Anyone! Boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, child—although it’s most commonly used by and for men and women in same-sex relationships. Just stay away from using the non-diminutive form of bear (Bär), since bears don’t fit into the cute cuddly paradigm of other German terms of endearment.

This is a popular one—like Maus, it ranks in the top five.

5. Liebling (der)

What does it mean literally?

This word translates roughly to the English “darling,” although it can also be used to mean “favorite,” as in “mein Lieblingsfilm” (my favorite film).

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it?

Like “darling,” you can use this one for anyone, although it lacks the creative flair of German’s animal nicknames. It doesn’t crack the top five in popularity, but you’ll find it in the top ten.

6. Engel (der)

What does it mean literally?

Angel.

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it?

Engel is more popularly used to nickname women than men, although it’s also popular for men in same-sex relationships.

7. Schnucki (das)

What does it mean literally?

This one has no direct English translation. It’s basically a cute-sounding word made up to express love. It’s not dissimilar to “sweetie-pie,” though.

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it?

You can use Schnucki for whoever you want. It ranks in the top ten of common terms of endearment as well.

8. Perle (die)

What does it mean literally?

Pearl.

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it?

Although it’s unusual and striking, this name isn’t very common or popular. It’s most often heard in the Ruhr Valley, in the industrial areas in Western Germany.

9. Süße (die) / Süßer (der)

What does it mean literally?

Sweet.

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it? 

Süße lands in the top ten, so it’s a fairly popular name in Germany, suitable for just about anyone. Remember that because Süße is an adjective in German, it receives different endings based on the person it’s describing (a man would be Süßer, a woman would be Süße).

10. Zaubermaus

What does it mean literally?

Magic mouse.

Who should you use it for, and how popular is it?

All right, admittedly, Zaubermaus isn’t a very common term of endearment here in Germany. But, hey, hopefully it gives you an idea of the breadth and creativity (not to mention the oddity) of German pet names.

After all, if we’re talking about uncommon pet names, besides Zaubermaus, we have die Schnecke (snail), die Biene (bee) and der Mausebär (mouse bear).

 

Clearly, despite German’s reputation as a harsh and brutal language, there’s no shortage of ways to show your affection for your children, your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend or even close friend.

English’s sweetie, honey and darling really don’t come close to a language where you can describe your partner or new romantic interest as a pearl or a bee—or really, as anything you want (one German survey showed that plenty of couples in Germany come up with their own pet names, including less-than-flattering ones like Schlumpf or “smurf.”)

So what are you waiting for?

Practice and memorize these ten terms of endearment, study up on your German romantic phrases and learn a romantic song in German.

You’ll be wooing your new Freund (boyfriend) or Freundin (girlfriend) in no time at all.
 

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