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Terms of Endearment

Honey, sweetie, darling, sweetheart are all terms of endearment that ring sweet on anyone’s ears in English. French speakers have their own terms of endearment, too. You might hear some of them in friendly and intimate conversations and wonder what they mean. For example, you might hear the words mon chou, mon amour, ma chérie, ma puce, mon cœur. They all mean something sweet to be sure, but what are their equivalents in English? Let’s find out!


In our series Mère & Fille, you are likely to come across a few of the pet names mentioned above. Isabelle likes to show affection toward her daughter using one of her favorite expressions, mon cœur ("sweetheart," literally “my heart"):


Tu perds ton temps, mon cœur.

You're wasting your time, sweetheart.

Caption 10, Mère & Fille Plan B

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In a different mother-daughter series, Elisa’s mom calls her daughter ma petite chérie, which can also translate as “sweetheart” ("my little sweetheart"): 


Salut ma petite chérie. -Salut maman.

Hello my little sweetheart. -Hi Mom.

Caption 1, Elisa et sa maman Comment vas-tu?

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Most of the time, though, ma chérie means “my darling," which is what Isabelle calls her daughter Barbara frequently:


Alors là ma chérie

So then, my darling

Caption 36, Mère & Fille Danse pas si classique

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In another Mère & Fille episode, Barbara goes over the top and calls her mother mon chéri d’amour (my darling love) in hopes that she will allow her to get her hair dyed:


Ah chérie. -Ça va mon chéri d'amour que j'aime ?

Ah, darling. -How is my darling love that I love?

Caption 24, Mère & Fille Tout en couleur

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Note how Isabelle uses the feminine chérie to refer to her daughter, while Barbara uses the masculine mon chéri to agree with the masculine amour


Similar to chéri/chérie is cher/chère (dear). In the following video, we have a conversation between two scientists where one addresses the other as mon cher (my dear friend). Since it is strictly a work friendship, “my dear friend” sounds more appropriate than “my dear":


Vous vous rendez compte, mon cher, qu'ils se trouvent des savants pour prétendre que la Terre n'est pas le centre de l'univers !

You realize, my dear friend, that there are scientists claiming that the earth is not the center of the universe!

Captions 22-23, Il était une fois: Les découvreurs 9. Galilée - Part 4

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In more casual circumstances between good friends, you might come across this cute expression, mon chou, which does not have a direct translation, unless you want to call your friend “my cabbage” or “my cream puff” (referring to un chou à la crème). In the comedy series Extr@, this tight group of friends use cute pet names frequently but in different ways. In this episode, Sacha introduces some bad news to Sam (who lost his lottery ticket), so she calls him mon chou to soften the blow:


Sam, mon chou. Tu as un ticket, mais tu n'as pas le ticket...

Sam, my dear. You have a ticket, but you don't have the ticket...

Captions 25-27, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 5

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On the other hand, Sacha, who is in love with Nico, uses mon chou in a more affectionate way, which is reflected in the translation “my darling”:


Oh, Nico, mon chou

Oh, Nico, my darling

Caption 32, Extr@ Ep. 7 - La jumelle - Part 5

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And what affectionate term does Nico use? He calls Sacha ma biche (literally, "my doe"), but in a sarcastic way, as he is annoyed with her:


Ma biche, qu'est-ce que tu fais cet après-midi ?

My doe [my darling], what are you doing this afternoon?

Captions 44-45, Extr@ Ep. 1 - L'arrivée de Sam - Part 2

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As for Annie, who has a soft spot for Sam, she likes to call him chouchou (sweetie pie). This is a cute colloquial term of endearment that is only used in very casual intimate settings or around children. In this video, it’s also used for humorous effect: 



Sweetie pie.

Caption 2, Extr@ Ep. 11 - Les vacances - Part 2

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Un chouchou (someone’s pet or favorite), however, is not always a complimentary term. In fact, quite the opposite. It refers to someone getting preferential treatment, often eliciting some jealousy on the part of the speaker. In the following video, the two tigers, who happen to be identical twins, don’t see eye to eye:


Ce voyou, cet infâme chouchou de maman

This rogue, this infamous mama's pet

Caption 12, Les zooriginaux 6. Tiger Minor - Part 1

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There's also the similar word choupinou, which is another way of saying “cute” or "too cute" in very casual language. In the following video, Barbara uses that term to express her admiration:


C'est choupinou ça !

That's too cute!

Caption 50, Mère & Fille Fête des mères

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When combined with a possessive adjective, mon choupinou means “my darling” or “my sweetie.” We can easily imagine Isabelle calling her daughter Barbara mon choupinou (sweetie):


Barbara, mon choupinou, viens ici !

Barbara, sweetie, come here!


Mon choupinou is reserved mainly for children. For adult romantic relationships, you will often hear the phrase mon amour (my love). In Serge Gainsbourg’s romantic song "La Javanaise," presented by Nelly, the term mon amour comes up several times: 


J'avoue, j'en ai bavé, pas vous, mon amour

I confess, I had a hard time, didn't you, my love

Caption 75, Français avec Nelly 12 Songs to Improve Your French - Part 2

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Another romantic term is ma belle ("my beautiful" or "gorgeous"):


Près de moi, ma belle, tu viendras

Near me, my beautiful, you will come

Caption 16, Zaz Belle

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In another era, a man would call his beloved sa tendre (his sweetheart), a term which is rather old-fashioned today. In one of her videos, Patricia mentions this quaint word that hearkens back to the days of chivalry:


Il souhaitait épouser sa tendre.

He wanted to marry his sweetheart.

Caption 83, Le saviez-vous? Le dernier duel à l'épée pour l'honneur en France

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You're more likely to hear a more modern expression that applies to all genders: bien-aimé/bien-aimée (beloved). In her video on phrases expressing romantic love, Nelly mentions the terms votre bien-aimé and votre chéri (your darling) in her list of examples:


Je vais vous donner quelques phrases pour déclarer votre amour à votre bien-aimé, votre chéri.

I'm going to give you a few phrases to declare your love to your beloved, your darling.

Captions 41-43, Français avec Nelly Les expressions de l'amour

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There you have it! You now have many formal, casual, and endearing terms at your disposal to express love and affection in various settings. Look out for examples in our Yabla videos to guide you as to which expression is most appropriate for the circumstance, so you will know not to call your boss mon choupinou! For more endearing terms, click here. Thank you for reading!