A list of endearments from poppet to pussums
The English language is filled with a wild assortment of romantic endearments, ranging from the old and obvious, such as sweetheart, to the entirely unexpected, such as flitter-mouse, an archaic term for a bat. In fact, bats are one of several animals that make an appearance, along with ducks, cats, doves, and turtles (and turtle-doves). ‘Sweet’ endearments are also in plentiful supply, especially anything to do with honey, including honeysop and honeysuckle. There are even a few terms borrowed from other languages, such as the German Schatz, which means ‘treasure’.
1. darling, 888
A person who is very dear to another; the object of a person’s love; one dearly loved. Commonly used as a term of endearing address.
2. sweetheart, 1290
Once properly two words, ‘sweetheart’ is similar to darling and is sometimes used ironically or contemptuously.
3. sweet, 1330
A beloved person, similar to ‘sweetheart’. In Middle English verse, ‘that swete’ is frequently used.
4. dove, 1386
With an early sense of the word being a term of endearment, ‘dove’ came to refer to a ‘gentle, innocent, or loving woman’.
5. poppet, 1390
Although it also referred to a small or dainty person, it was also used as a term of endearment.
6. cinnamon, 1405
The only citation in the OED for this term of endearment comes from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”: ‘My faire bryd, my swete cynamome.’
7. honeycomb, 1405
A term of endearment, related to ‘honey’.
8. honeysop, 1513
Literally, a piece of bread dipped in honey, but figuratively used as a term of endearment
9. turtle-dove, 1535
Applied especially to lovers or married folk, in allusion to the turtle-dove’s affection for its mate.
10. bully, 1548
A term of endearment and familiarity, originally applied to either sex. Later the term was applied to men only, implying friendly admiration: good friend, fine fellow, ‘gallant’.
11. lamb, 1556
Used as a term of endearment, ‘lamb’ also referred to ‘one who is as meek, gentle, innocent, or weak as a lamb’.
12. chuck, 1598
A familiar term of endearment, applied to husbands, wives, children, close companions.
13. duck, 1600
One early example of this term comes in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”: ‘O dainty duck, o deare!’
14. flitter-mouse, 1612
Another term for a bat, this term was also a term of playful endearment.
15. honeysuckle, 1613
An affectionate form of address similar to sweetheart, darling, and honey.
16. lovey, 1684
The OED cites Robert Matheson’s 1954 novel “I Am Legend” in this entry: ‘Really, now, search your soul, lovie—is the vampire so bad?’ Alternate spellings of the word include ‘lovie’, ‘luvvy’, and ‘luvvie’.
17. puss , 1753
A term of endearment referring to a girl or woman, especially one exhibiting characteristics associated with a cat, such as spitefulness, slyness, attractiveness, or playfulness. Originally used as a term of contempt, in later use ‘puss’ was also a pet name or term of endearment.
18. lovey-dovey, 1781
An expanded form of the earlier ‘lovey’, ‘lovey-dovey’ is also an adjective, meaning ‘overly sentimental’ or ‘very affectionate’.
19. macushla, 1834
In this entry, the OED cites a poem by Ogden Nash: ‘In a word, Macushla, / There’s a scad o’ things that to make a house a home it takes not only a / heap, or a peck, but at least a bushela.
20. cabbage, 1840
A term of endearment or affectionate form of address, found especially in the phrase ‘my (little) cabbage’.
21. honey-bunch, 1874
The OED cites a 1911 issue of the ‘Bulletin of the American Warehousemen’s Association: ‘When a prepossessing damsel of twenty-three..asks you to be her honey bunch what would you do?’
22. pumpkin, 1900
A term of endearment similar to ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’, an earlier sense of ‘pumpkin’ in US slang refers to a person or matter of great importance.
23. Schatz, 1907
A term of endearment for a woman from German, ‘Schatz’ means ‘treasure’.
24. pussums, 1912
Used as a term of endearment for a cat or occasionally a person, especially a woman.
25. sugar, 1930
This term is also combined with other words, as in ‘sugar-babe’, ‘sugar-baby’, and ‘sugar-pie’.
Tell us your favorite romantic endearment in the comments below!