The terms of endearment can be an excellent tool to learn new words and a new vocabulary.
Generally, it is difficult to express emotions in our own language. Sometimes a simple “I love you” is not enough to express a passionate love or an unbearable need for that person, so we find ourselves searching and searching for terms that help us find the right words to express what we feel.
As you might know, each language has its own “set” of words and terms to express love and affection. The English language is no exception, but you should know that British English speakers use many of these terms casually, even among strangers (taxi drivers, cashiers, you get the point). This doesn’t mean that they are in love with you or bear any romantic feelings. It’s just a form of being nice with people.
In this article, we will talk about the common terms of endearment used in the UK so that you can get familiar with them and add them to your conversations (and know when and how to use them as the case may be).
According to the ‘Historical Thesaurus’ of the University of Glasgow, there are 103 ways to say ‘darling‘, and they range from expressions like “honeybunch” to “light of my life”.
The common terms of endearment
Commonly British people use “luv” instead of “love.” This term is mostly used in Northern England, London and in England’s South-East. It’s a term that’s used very often, to the point that this word sometimes replaces the person’s name.
For example, if you run into someone in the street, they can tell you something like “watch where you’re walking, luv!”. In the same way, regardless of whether you are male or female, a waitress might ask you something along the lines of “what can I get you, luv?” Or “what are you having, luv?”.
This word is widely used by middle and working classes; it is not typical of the upper class. Because of the versatility of this word and its everyday use, it’s also common to be used between lovers and partners.
2. Sweetheart, sweetie
They are very common expressions used mostly in England’s South East. You will hear terms of affection related to sweet things all across the UK, since they are also used as familiar terms.
The origin of these words dates back to the 13th century, as it was more common to use these types of words to describe people (for example ‘cold-hearted’). Sweetheart was used to describe people with whom it was nice to be around.
This term is mostly used with partners, friends and very rarely with strangers. The slang term of honey, ‘hun’ is commonly used by strangers to address others, in the same way they use ‘luv’. You might encounter that some use ‘hun’ and others prefer ‘hon’, but either term is acceptable.
It is not unusual for there to be many expressions related to sweet food. In other languages such as Spanish, a common term of endearment of the equivalent of ‘sugarlump’ could be used for example.
4. Pet, Duck
Amongst the British terms of endearment, we have the use of the word pet and duck. Although not as common in other cultures, the English are people who love animals, so it is not entirely strange that they use these words to show affection.
It is frequently used for greetings, “How is it going, pet?”, “How are you, pet?”. As to how you should reply, just do as you normally would, “All fine, thank you, what about you?”.
This is a word that does not distinguish between classes. The upper classes use it as a term of affection (“I love/adore you, darling”) and “common people” can use it for everyday situations (“what are you up to, darlin’?”, for example). It is also used mostly by couples and also to talk about someone whom you appreciate or admire (“She’s such a darling girl!”). Some use it as a greeting between friends.
The friendly terms of darling
In some parts of the UK terms like “love” and “chuck” are used with anyone you know (from close friends to employees sharing a coffee, for example). Terms like “sweetie” are more common among English speakers of southern zones (especially for those in the upper and middle classes). Terms like “hen” are also often used with friendly meanings.
This term dates back to the 14th century, and it’s seen as the short expression of ‘dear one’ or ‘my dearest one’. It is mostly used amongst old people to express affection for their couples and loved ones. Sometimes it is used by strangers too (“What can I do for you, dear?”).
7. Babe, baby
This term more than being popular or proper to the UK, it is used worldwide. Babe is the slang term of baby, which the British commonly use. This term is used only by couples and lovers and not by strangers.
8. My lover
This expression is very typical in the South West of England. Anyone, from friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers use this expression with everyone, so don’t worry of get weirded out if you hear a “Good evenin’ me lover”.
9. Babes, treasure, princess
In the East side of London, you will hear “babes” everywhere and all the time. In cockney language (very proper of East London and the working classes) they usually call women with words like ‘treasure’ and ‘princess’. Although it may not seem like it, they have a friendly character and are not meant to be offensive.
This term is commonly used amongst men. It’s an old Irish word that means “good friend” or “brother”.
British slang for boyfriends
When you consider British pet names for couples we find some terms like:
- Bunny (used to express that someone seems to you “as adorable as a bunny”)
- Panda (pretty much used with the same intention of ‘bunny’)
- Teddy (used to express that they are “as soft and cuddly as a teddy bear”).