“Si canta sempre di cuore—quando si è pieno d’amore.” (One sings from the heart when one is full of love.)
This is especially true for Italians, who speak “the language of love” in one of the most romantic places on the globe.
People flock to spots all across Italy for dreamy honeymoons and passionate encounters among Rome’s ancient ruins.
You can even get some Italian kissing tips from the pros—and, by the way, each bacio (kiss) burns six calories!
Italians have some sweet terms of endearment to go along with all that romance and smooching. From childish and cute right up to sexy and smooth, the language of love makes murmuring sweet nothings a snap.
And it’s not just for lovers—there’s something for everyone. Italians value relationships of all types, so there’s a proper term for everyone in your life, from family and kids to significant others with varying degrees of affection.
I polled my Italian in-laws for advice on some of the best and most common Italian terms of endearment, and have come up with a list that they assure me will have anyone sounding as though they were born in Sicily!
Let’s check out some super terms of endearments—I bet a couple will make you smile!
Italian Terms of Endearment to Make You Sing “That’s Amore!”
Children First: Cute Kid Terms of Endearment
Italian family bonds are generally very close. As a result, children benefit from lots of love and terms of endearment are lavished onto them, too.
Here are two very familiar terms used to speak with or to children:
Topolina/Topolino — Little Mouse
Cucciola/Cucciolo — Puppy
Both reference smaller versions of common animals. Does smaller equal cuter or more precious? Yes, sometimes it does!
Use these in place of a child’s name and watch that little one’s eyes sparkle! Because really, what kid wouldn’t feel loved when called Little mouse or Puppy?
Spread the love!
From Casual to Steamy: Terms of Endearment for Any Relationship
Before we hit the actual list, let’s go over some day-to-day endearments that correlate with ones that you might be accustomed to using.
English speakers often say “Honey,” “Babe” or “Dear” (to name just a few!) instead of calling their significant other by name, right?
Well, Italians do that, too!
Instead of “Honey” or “Sweetheart” you might hear Dolcezza (literally: Sweetness) which is a very informal term that loosely means “sweetheart.”
Carina means “cute” and is casually tossed around instead of “Cutie” or “Dear.”
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Now let’s get to the endearments that’ll elevate your Italian romance vocabulary to the next level.
Just for fun, we’ll discuss them in order of intensity—moving from casual and friendly to committed and happily-ever-after serious!
Bella/Bello — Beautiful/Handsome
If you’ve watched any silly Italian romance comedy movie, you might think the standard, “Ciao, Bella!” (“Hello, Beautiful!”) is only used as a catcall or barroom come-on.
Well, sometimes it is used that way, but most of the time it’s just a conversational standard—an all-purpose endearment that’s heard daily in many situations.
Leaving the cheese shop with the day’s lunch tucked into your bag? As you wave good-bye to the shopkeeper, you might get a “Ciao, Bella!”
Picking up your sweet niece from school? Don’t be surprised if the teacher calls little Giuseppa Bella instead of her name as you prepare to take her home.
But this is a case of casual that can become intimate depending on the players and setting.
Bella and the masculine, Bello, are often exchanged between couples who are in a serious relationship. For instance, a wife may call her husband Bello to indicate he’s handsome and loved.
The words can—and do!—move from the street to the bedroom. So if you’re considering a rendezvous, this is a great word to murmur.
Cara/Caro — Dear
Cara and Caro are endearments that are meaningful across many different situations. They work for every stage of a relationship and can be applied to friends, close acquaintances and lovers.
Remember Carina (Cute)? It’s the even-more-casual derivative of this endearment.
If someone is dear to you, let them know by calling them Cara or Caro!
Polpetta/Polpetto — Meatball
This is a fun, fanciful term!
The masculine form is used to address a boyfriend, husband or lover. Sometimes a woman might be called Polpetta but more often, the man is the meatball.
And no, it’s not at all derogatory to call someone you’re intimate with Polpetto. In the correct context and between the right people, it can definitely be a loving term, so take it out of the kitchen!
I have a happily-married cousin who can attest to that fact. Honestly, I don’t think his wife has ever called him by his actual name. To each their own!
-ina/-ino — Little
Adding the suffixes -ina or -ino is like waving a magic wand over whatever word they’re attached to.
Poof! An ordinary word becomes an endearment!
Sounds crazy, right? But consider these and maybe your mind will change about diminutive items having the ability to grow hearts:
fragola (strawberry) + -ina → Fragolina (Little strawberry)
gatto (cat) + -ino → Gattino (Kitten)
Even formaggio (cheese)—something not ordinarily romantic!—sounds a lot more personal when -ino is tacked on to make it Formaggino (Little cheese).
Use your imagination, follow your heart and add the suffix to common nouns to turn them into your own words of love!
Remember, though, to stay true to the word’s gender when adding the -ina or -ino suffixes.
Tesoro — Darling, (literally: Treasure)
Another classic endearment, Tesoro works perfectly in a family situation.
Mother to child? Tesoro.
Daughter or granddaughter to elderly patriarch? Tesoro.
To a significant other? Tesoro.
Calling someone you love a treasure truly elevates the endearment. It puts them right up there with something incredibly valuable to your heart, something so precious you’d do almost anything to keep it (and them!) safe.
Cuore mio — My heart
Cuore mio is literally translated to mean “My heart.”
It’s wildly romantic and almost old-fashioned, even though it’s definitely part of today’s vernacular.
It’s not an endearment to be tossed around lightly between friends or acquaintances.
Married couples favor this one.
Or if il tuo ragazzo (your boyfriend) has just become il tuo fidanzato (your fiancé), this might be a good choice for you to pull into the day-to-day!
It shows that the person being addressed is really cherished.
Anima gemella — literally: Twin soul
Anima gemella is the Italian equivalent of the English term “soulmate.”
It signifies a couple has reached the true love stage. So when things are getting pretty serious between you and your companion, don’t be surprised if you hear this one. Feel free to use it, too!
As a point of interest, there’s no male form of the noun anima (soul) so use Anima gemella to refer to either a male or a female.
La mia vita — My life
Your significant other may melt if you lean in close and say, “Sei la mia vita.” It implies that without the other you couldn’t live, doesn’t it?
Not for a casual date, but definitely an effective, memorable and potentially heart-stopping, beautiful endearment, la mia vita is best saved for those important moments!
La mia anima — My soul
La mia anima is right up there in importance and impact with La mia vita. It’s a serious, from-the-heart, love-you-forever endearment.
This term is used between those in a committed relationship and sometimes parents use it with their children.
Again, serious relationships only!
Amore mio — My love
I’ve kept the most classic term of endearment for last. Honestly, this one never goes out of style.
Somehow, it seems even more intimate than any other. Used between couples, it’s a sign that they’ve made a love match that they intend to keep.
I know couples who’ve been married for decades who still call each other Amore mio. It’s as perfectly beautiful and as timelessly Italian as it gets!
Don’t wait for the moon to hit your eye like a big pizza pie—throw caution to the wind, claim “That’s Amore!” and start using these fabulous terms of endearment.
Because, really, love does makes the world go around, doesn’t it?
Especially in the lover’s paradise, Italy, where it’s super easy to make friends and find lovers.
Take your new, loving vocabulary and explore The Boot.
Go for the pizza and the cannoli. Enjoy the history, art and music.
Then, stay for the love!
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