In honour of Valentine's Day, we’re bringing you romance-related English vocabulary that can be used to address your beloved, describe your relationship or even discuss your breakup.
Valentine’s Day is observed in some way in dozens of countries around the world. What began hundreds of years ago as a day for couples to exchange small gifts has become a day on which to celebrate both romantic and platonic affection; in Japan, for example, the day is marked by women offering gifts of chocolate to men (often male coworkers), who return the favour a month later on March 14 (White Day, named for the colour of the chocolate gifted). In the Philippines, meanwhile, the holiday is decidedly romantic in nature, with February 14 being a day when mass weddings are traditionally held.
Here in Canada, Valentine’s Day has historically been associated with romantic love, although not exclusively. It’s also the day on which children exchange “Valentines” (i.e. Valentine’s Day cards) with their classmates, and, in recent years, “Galentine’s Day” (or "Palentine's Day"), celebrated on February, has become a day for platonic friends to celebrate their love for each other.
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day (if at all), you’ll want to check out the following idioms, expressions and vocabulary, which will allow you to talk about love (or express it!) like a pro.
Terms of endearment are nicknames we use to refer to people for whom we feel affection. They don’t have to be romantic; in fact, many are decidedly not romantic (like mate, buddy, dude, pal, etc.). All of the following terms, however, are appropriate to use for a significant other (e.g. your spouse/husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner).
Dear: A common salutation at the beginning of letters and emails, dear can also be used as a term of endearment. Starting a letter with “Dear (name)” is polite and formal; referring to someone as “dear” (“Hey, dear, how are you?”), however, implies closeness and affection.
Sweetheart/sweetie (pie): Used for both romantic partners and other loved ones, especially younger relatives (e.g. one’s children). Using sweet things/food as terms of endearment is popular in many languages, and English is no exception; you might also call someone sugar, honey/hun, sweet pea, pumpkin or cutie pie.
Baby/babe/bae: While baby and babe (an abbreviation of baby) can be used for both romantic interests and children, “bae” (an abbreviation of babe) is reserved exclusively for one’s boyfriend/girlfriend. Babe can also be used to denote attractiveness (e.g. “What a babe!”).
Love: This term of endearment, which is not exclusive to romantic partners (and can even be used with strangers, just like hun), is especially common in British English. When using terms like love and hun with strangers, the unofficial rule is that it’s best to only use them to address younger people (otherwise it may come across as condescending). Lover, however, is generally only used to address someone you’re romantically involved with (or your friends, as a joke) and should definitely not be used with strangers.
Lovebug: Often used for (but not exclusive to) the object of one’s romantic affection.
Darling: ‘Darling’ first emerged as a term of endearment hundreds of years ago, and comes from the same origins as ‘dear’. Like love and hun, darling can be used to address not only romantic partners and other loved ones but also strangers.
Gorgeous/handsome/hottie: Hey, hottie! What could be more affectionate than calling someone attractive? Beautiful, cutie, stunner and hot stuff also work.
Partner in crime
Missus (for women only)
To be seeing someone.
To be casually dating someone.
Example: “Did you hear that Beatrice has been seeing Jules?”
Synonyms: to be dating someone, to be going out with someone, to be hanging out with someone, to be talking to someone.
When someone has feelings of love that are not returned; i.e. one-sided love.
Example: “Selena is suffering from unrequited love. She’s in love with Alex, who doesn’t know she exists.”
To have a crush on someone
To have romantic feelings for someone. Having a crush is understood to be less intense than being in love with someone. You can have a crush on someone or be “crushing” on someone.
Example: “Have you seen the new barista at the coffee shop around the corner? I have such a crush on him! He’s so cute.”
Synonyms: to have the hots for someone, to be smitten with someone, to fancy someone (British English), to fall for someone
When two couples get together and merge their date nights.
Example: “Are you free on Friday night? Gabriela is seeing someone new and I suggested we all get together for a double date.”
To dump someone/to be dumped
To break up with someone (i.e. to end a relationship)/be broken up with.
Example: “Sofia is having a super rough week. Luis dumped her on Monday, completely out of the blue.”
For more words and phrases, check out our Instagram account, where we’ll be posting love-themed idioms and expressions all week!