Behind closed doors, everyone has their favorite set of nicknames. And French terms of endearment vary widely. French is the language of love, so you know that French pet names and nicknames were going to be quite evocative.
Some are cute and romantic, others more unique and nonsensical. Living in France for 10+ years, I’ve heard the gamut. We have everything from stuffed toys to farm animals to vegetables as pet names.
There’s so many different French nicknames that I’ve had to break them down into categories. One thing to note is that unlike in English, where we just say “My Dear”, and the “My” is the same if it is male or female, in French you have to adjust it to “Mon” for a male and “Ma” for female.
In addition, the noun object also changes spelling at times to agree to the Mon/Ma. If that sounds confusing, not to worry, it will become evident as we go through!
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Male and Female Nicknames
1. Mon cœur
English translation: My heart
Mon coeur is an easy one that can refer to a man, woman, or child. Even though it means “heart”, it is not restricted to a romantic interest as it is somewhat similar to “sweetheart” in English, in that it can be used for a child. Other variations of this are:
- Mon petit cœur – my little heart
An example of how this is used is “Coucou, qu’est ce que tu fais mon cœur?” It is rather a strong sentiment though, compared to “sweetheart” which North Americans tend to throw around rather casually.
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2. Mon amour
English translation: My love
Mon amour is another one that is used a lot for adults and children. Other variations include:
- Amour de ma vie – the love of my life
- Bébé d’Amour – My sweet baby / love bug
3. Mon ange
English translation: My angel
Because “ange” begins with a vowel, the same “mon ange” term and spelling is used for males and females, even though an angel is a person. Other variations are:
- Mon petit ange – My little angel
4. Mon Rayon de soleil
English translation: Ray of sunshine
If you occasionally hum to yourself the English song “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine”, you will appreciate mon rayon de soleil.
5. Mon Trésor
English translation: My Treasure
This one is the same whether you are referring to a male or female. In conversation, you would use it as “Bonjour, mon trésor“.
6. Mon bébé
English translation: My baby
Baby, baby, baby. In the same sense as in English, mon bébé can be used on adults and children. Note, bébé always stays masculine, even if it is a girl. “Mon bébé est une fille” – My baby is a girl.
7. Mon étoile
English translation: My star
My star, or rather my shining star, is not one that is used that often in English or in French, but I included it on the list anyway.
8. Mon Bijou
English translation: My Jewel
Mon bijou translates literally to my jewel, but it is more along the sense of the English “my precious”. Bijou is always male, so mon bijou applies to male and female.
If Gollum from Lord of the Rings was French, I imagine he would say “mon bijou” rather than “mon precieux“, but I suppose we can leave that to the Tolkien translation team.
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For Male or Female depending on spelling
1. Mon Chéri / Ma chérie
English translation: My dear
The classic “my dear”, mon chéri can be used on adults and children. Part of the reason the name is so well known is the little liquor-filled chocolates with the same name. (The company that sells them though is Italian, not French!)
Ma cherie is often used in French love poetry as well, which you can read more about here.
2. Mon prince / Ma princesse
English translation: My prince / princess
The royal treatment in French, with mon prince and ma princesse. Just like in English, this can be used for adults and children.
With most of the terms of endearment, you can add a “petit” in there, such as mon petit amour, mon petit trésor, etc. or even ma petite princesse. But in the case of mon petit prince, you still can, but a French person will immediately reference the famous French book “Le Petit Prince” instead.
3. Doudou / Doudounette
English translation: favorite toy
This is probably one of the first words that every French child learns, doudou, meaning their favorite toy. They won’t be able to say a full sentence but they will still be able to call out for the doudou.
Mostly associated with children, parents will often call their little ones doudou, or doudounette.
- Mon doudou tout doux – My super-soft toy
- Mon doudou tout migon – My really cute toy
4. Loulou / Louloutte
English translation: no translation
Loulou is a very common French nickname, but it doesn’t really have a meaning. It could reference the loup (wolf) which is quite popular in children’s literature in France, but there is no proven connection.
It falls in the family of “cute words” in French like coucou, doudou, nounou (nanny) etc. Variations include:
- Lilou – nickname for Lily
- Pilou – stuffed toy, name of a rugby team’s song
- Filou – nickname for Philip
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5. Petit mignon / mignonne
English translation: Cute little one
This one is usually reserved for children, but you could always use it with someone who is quite a bit younger than you are (we’re not judging!) Other variations include:
- Ma Mignonne (female) – My cute one
6. Mon grande / ma Grande
English translation: My big guy/girl
Mon grande means “my big guy/girl”, and just like in English, you can use it to refer to an adult or child. Just like in English, it has nothing to do with the physical size of the person.
7. Ma poupée
English translation: My doll
Ma poupée is usually only reserved for females, and usually only for small female children. Variations include:
8. Ma Perle
English translation: My pearl
Another one reserved only for females is the exquisite “ma perle“. It can be used for adults and children, the same as “my pearl” would be in English.
9. Mon beau / ma belle
English translation: My handsome one / My pretty one
As the famous Beatles song goes Michelle, ma belle. You will also remember Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Mon beau is rarer as a term of endearment in France, but you may still hear it occasionally.
For a Boyfriend or Girlfriend
These romantic French terms of endearment are usually reserved for that special loved one in your life.
1. Mon cœur d’amour
English translation: My heart of love
Combining two terms of endearment, you can go all-in with mon cœur d’amour with your special someone.
2. Mon roi / Ma reine
English translation: My King / My Queen
A step up from the prince and princess is the King and Queen. Mon Roi was also the name of a 2015 Vincent Cassel film that won quite a few awards at the Césars (the French version of the Oscars).
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3. Ma beauté
English translation: My Beauty
At the risk of being sexist, ma beauté is reserved for females. Usually reserved for your significant other, although I suppose you could also use it for horses!
4. Ma moitié
English translation: My (Other) Half
Ma moitié may be feminine, but the phrase can be used for males and females. The French don’t really say “my better half”, or “my other half”, it just “my half”. For example: il est là-bas, ma moitié (he is over there, my half).
5. Mon Roméo
English translation: My Romeo
“O Roméo! Roméo! Pourquoi es-tu Roméo? Yes, Shakespeare has been translated into French (!?), and French people do study his books in school. So you can’t blame them for adopting the star-crossed lovers in their list of nicknames.
Pet Names based on Nature
English translation: My flower
Ma petite fleur, my little flower is always a sweet way to address someone. Similar to English, it would usually only be addressed to females.
2. Ma petale
English translation: My petal
Continuing the floral theme is the petal, which again would likely only be used for women and female children.
3. Ma rose
English translation: My rose
Ah, the rose by any other name (or language) that would smell just as sweet.
4. Ma noisette
English translation: My hazelnut
Ma noisette is one of the odder ones on the list, but it sounds better in French than it does in English. It is actually a somewhat popular girl’s name in France, meaning determination and passion.
5. Mon pomme d’amour
English translation: My candy apple
Candy apples may be bad for your teeth, but no one says you can’t use pomme d’amour as a French term of endearment for your significant other.
Nicknames for Friends
English translation: Boss
Chef in French can mean the “chef who cooks”, but it is also the French word for boss. “Mon chef m’a demandé de finir cette rapport,” meaning “my boss asked me to finish that report”.
So when you refer to your friend as “chef”, it is seen as a sign of friendship and a nice way of saying that you are going to do as your friend suggests.
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English translation: Champion
Just as in English, when you refer to someone as a champion, it is a way of showing affection.
English translation: Cousin
Salut Cousin doesn’t necessarily have to refer to your cousin here, but a good friend that you consider family.
English translation: Sibling (slang)
Frangin and frangine, basically means “bro” or “sis”, and is a casual way to refer to one’s siblings. Unlike cousin, you wouldn’t really use it on friends however, it is usually reserved for family members.
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English translation: Brother (slang)
Frérot is another one that derives from the French word frére, meaning brother.
English translation: Buddy/Guy
“Hey Mec“, is a way of calling someone like “Hey dude” in English. On the other hand, if you say “mon mec“, that is a nickname for “my guy”, as in “my boyfriend”.
7. Mon/Ma Pote
English translation: Friend/Buddy
Mon pote is a casual way of saying “my friend”, and usually refers to a good friend. Variations include:
Pet Names based on Food
1. Mon chou / choupette
English translation: My cabbage
The famous cabbage has many entries in this section. Other variations include:
- chouchou (m) / chouchoutte (f)
- choupinou (m) / ma choupinette (f)
- mon petit chou (m)
- choupette (f)
- pitchou (m/f)
- pitchoune (m) / pitchounette (f)
These are all versions of small cabbage (petit chou). Calling someone a cabbage is very popular in France, as you can tell!
2. Petite miette
English translation: Little crumb
A sweet little crumb that you don’t want to sweep away.
English translation: My sauerkraut
Staying with the cabbage category, here is the pickled cabbage. I hate sauerkraut so I have issues with this one but if you like it, go for it.
4. Ma biscotte
English translation: My rusk bread
Like miette, biscotte also sounds lovely in French, and so works as a nickname here. There are a lot of popular French girl’s names that sound similar like Cosette and Josette, so biscotte falls into that trend.
5. Mon bouchon
English translation: My bottle cork
France is the leading producer of fine wines in the world, so why not a nickname with wine.
6. Mon petit sushi
English translation: My little sushi
Mon petit sushi is probably more of a Parisian one, since there are nearly as many sushi places in Paris as there are in New York. I love sushi, so I can’t disavow this one.
7. Ma cocotte
English translation: My casserole dish
Cocotte sounds better in French than casserole dish, and so this does work in French, even if the translation does sound a little strange.
8. Mon coco
English translation: My egg
Mon coco works as a term of affection and pet name for both adults and children. In English we have the expression “he’s a good egg”, although that is not really a term of endearment.
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Nicknames for Children based on Animals
1. Ma puce
English translation: My flea
Ma puce sounds strange, but it is actually quite a common pet name in French. It can even be said among close friends, unlike some of the others which are usually reserved for partners and children.
2. Mon lapin
English translation: My bunny rabbit
- lapinou (m)
- lapinet (m)
The bunny rabbit is popular in all languages, so no surprise to see mon lapin on the list. Note, I have put this under animals, but actually rabbits are a delicacy in France, so I could actually have put this under the food section!
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English translation: Baby Chick
And speaking of food, we have the cute and cuddly baby chick. Other variations include:
- Ma Poule – My Chicken, my hen
4. Ma biche
English translation: Young doe
The equivalent of Bambi, ma biche is a somewhat popular one the list. Just beware the pronunciation however! Other variations include:
- Bichette (f)
English translation: Kitten
The ever popular cat and kittens are always good for a sweet nickname, and chaton is no different. Other variations include:
- Ma petite chatte (f)
- Minette (f)
- Minou (f)
6. Mon nounours
English translation: My teddy bear
We could never leave out the teddy bear off our list. Mon grand nounours has a lovely ring to it. Other variations include:
- Mon ours – my bear
7. Mon caneton
English translation: My duckling
Since we had baby chicks on the list, we couldn’t leave out baby ducks. (Ducks are also a delicacy, so along with the chickens, all of these should have been the food category!?) Anyway, other variations include:
- Mon canard – My (adult) duck
8. Ma crevette
English translation: My shrimp
And speaking of food, there is the shrimp.
9. Mon petit loup / ma petite louve
English translation: My little wolf
Petit loup is a very popular nickname for kids, because there is a famous series of French children’s books called Petit Loup and the Loup.
Wolves are quite popular in French culture, there is also one of top French songs for kids involving a wolf, called “Promenons-nous dans les bois“.
10. Petit oiseau
English translation: My little bird
The sweet little birdie can be used for adults and children, but tends to usually be for the little ones.
11. Ma loutre
English translation: My otter
One of the odder (or should I say otter) ones on the list is la loutre. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself :p
12. Ma petite marmotte
English translation: My groundhog
We have the otter and groundhogs, but there is no mention of beavers on the list. Mon castor just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
13. Mon petit koala
English translation: My little koala
For the cute and clingy ones in your life, the French have the koala. For those who are Australophiles, I’m afraid no kangaroos have made the list.
14. Ver de terre
English translation: My worm
Petit ver de terre is a rather common one for the nursery set aka those small toddlers who are wiggling about as you are trying to get them dressed.
15. Mon tigre / ma tigresse
English translation: My tiger
For the fierce one in your life, there is the tiger. Enough said.
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Strange and Funny Nicknames
1. Mon gros
English translation: My fat man, big man
Mon gros might sound terrible, but it is in the vein of Mon Grande (my big one) that was discussed earlier. Usually only referring to boys and men who don’t easily take offense!
2. Mon petit monstre
English translation: My little monster
Mon petit monstre is can be used for children (both male and female), because children are such little terrors aren’t they?
3. Mon râleur / Ma râleuse
English translation: My complainer
And when they grow up, those French children turn into adults who like to complain and protest, so no one should be surprised that “complainer” is a term of affection. Variations of this include:
- Melonchonist – Named after Jean Mélonchon, a famous leftist politician.
4. Ma bohême
English translation: My bohemian
Another one that is more of a city-slicker term for those bobo chic Parisians. This one can be used for males and females.
5. Mon pépère
English translation: Grandfather
Mon pépère may sound like an insult, but it really isn’t. It is related to the french words papa (father), papi (grandfather) and pepe (spanish for father).
6. Ma pépette
English translation: Young girl
The female version of pépère might sound like pépette, but it isn’t. It means young girl, because no one wants to be called a fat woman.
So do you have a favorite nickname? Comment below and let me know. You can find out more about the French views of love here. A bientôt!
¹ Featured Image: Sarah Pflug