The Language of Love: French Terms of Endearment
French is known as the language of love and romance, so of course there are many unique ways of expressing affection towards others in French.
There are classic English terms of endearment that translate directly to French, but there are also some unique terms of endearment in French you just wouldn’t hear in the English language.
Have some fun learning how to flatter your sweetheart, fuss over a little one or address your group of pals in French. You will also want to brush up on how to express your love to someone using the verb aimer (to love).
Victor Hugo, one of the most famous French writers of the 1800s, once wrote: “La vie est une fleur dont l’amour est le miel” which means “Life is a flower of which love is the honey.” Learning sweet and affectionate words to use towards others is a quick and easy way to pick up some useful French vocabulary and impress your loved ones.
French Terms of Endearment for Your Sweetheart
French has a myriad of intriguing terms of endearment that include animals, vegetables and even insects. The following terms of endearment mirror ones that you would see in English as well:
Mon amour – my love
Mon bébé – my baby
Mon ange – my angel
Ma chérie – my dear (feminine form)
Mon chéri – my dear (masculine form)
Note that ma chérie and mon chéri have both a masculine and feminine form while the other three mentioned only have one form.
A few surprising French terms of endearment include:
Ma puce – my flea
Ma caille – my quail
Ma biche – my dear
When a man calls his girlfriend “ma puce” (my flea) it is meant to be very affectionate and sweet. It is a soft sounding word in French, pronounced mah poose. It sounds similar to the word épouse in French, which means wife or spouse.
“Ma caille” (my quail) refers to a small bird and it is meant to be an affectionate term as well. It’s not as common as “ma puce” and usually older couples would use “ma caille”.
Ma biche (my dear) is bit old fashioned and literally refers to the female deer, or a doe. The English form of “my dear” is more directly translated as “ma chérie” or “mon chéri” in French.
Words of Affection for the Cherished Children in Your Life
Sometimes a child earns a nickname that they carry with them until adulthood. Other times parents use terms of endearment to express love, joy and tenderness towards their children. Here are a few common terms of endearment the French use towards children:
Mon coeur – my heart
Mon chou – my cabbage
Un bout de chou – a bit of cabbage
Mon fils – my son/boy
Ma fille – my daughter/ girl
The term “mon chou” (cabbage) comes from an old French adage that says that babies grow from the cabbage patch just like the vegetable. The idea is similar to the story of a stork delivering a baby to a family. The word chou in French has a soft pronunciation: shoo.
Friends: What to Call Your Best Buds in French
A close female friend is often called “ma belle” (my beautiful) or “ma fille” (my girl). A group of friends would be referred to as “les amis”, “les copains” or “les potes”. It is a group of only female friends they would be “les filles” (the girls) or “les copines” (a group of female friends). A group of male friends would be “les gars” or “les mecs”.
The possessive French adjectives “mon” and “ma” (my) always agree with the term of endearment. This means that they may not necessarily match the gender of the person you are describing.
For example, the word “chou” (cabbage) is masculine so it will always have “mon” in front of it, even if you are addressing a girlfriend. When there is both a masculine and feminine form of a word, use the term that matches the gender of the person you are describing. If there is only one form of the word, then masculine terms of endearment are used to describe anyone and feminine terms are only used for females. For example, “ma puce” (my flea) is a female noun so it would only be used for girls or women.
The Verb Aimer: To Love
Moi aussi, je t’aime mon chéri.
I love you.
I love you too my dear.
The brief exchange here uses the verb “aimer” between two people expressing love towards one another. You will notice the letter “t” with an apostrophe in front of the verb “aime”. This is the abbreviated word “te”, meaning you. Since there is a vowel at the beginning of “aime” you would take out the “e” in “te” and use an apostrophe.
To express love in French you would use the verb “aimer” (to love). Here is how it is conjugated:
J’aime – I love
Tu aimes – You love
Il/Elle/On aime – He/She/ One loves
Nous aimons – We love
Vous aimez – You (Plural or formal) love
Ils/Elles aiment – They love
Here are a few examples using aimer:
Elle aime Henri beaucoup. – She loves Henry a lot.
Nous aimons voyager à Paris. – We love to travel to Paris.
My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder referenced the French term of endearment “Ma chérie” (me dear) in his 1969 song “My Cherie Amour”. The song was originally written about Stevie Wonder’s girlfriend Marsha, but the lyrics were changed to My Cherie Amour after their breakup. My Cherie Amour is not grammatically correct though as it is missing the French possessive adjective “ma” as well as the accent in chérie. It is a mixture of both English and French.
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Rachel Graf taught French classes for eight years after studying the language in university and through French immersion programs in France and Quebec. She is also learning Spanish and German.