Valentine’s Day: Sweet nothings

Posted on February 5, 2024

When a Quebecoise tells you about her chum, she’s talking about her romantic partner. As a Francophone, I was surprised to learn that this English word, which was adopted into French in La Belle Province, isn’t used as a romantic nickname in English. It simply refers to a close friend.

But there’s no shortage of English pet names for that special someone in your life! With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I looked into some of these terms of affection, and here's what I discovered.


In all the buzz around February 14, which many consider more commercial than romantic, it’s common to hear the word valentine. But this word has more than one meaning!

When someone asks you to be their valentine, they’re generally expressing romantic feelings.

But valentine also describes the gift or card that a person sends, sometimes anonymously, to someone who catches their eye. This person may then become the valentine.

Romance isn't always attached to Valentine's Day offerings, however; they’re also exchanged between friends, classmates and parents and children.

One song you’ll likely hear around the big day (and that you could use as background music for your romantic Valentine’s Day dinner!) is the one Paul McCartney dedicated to his wife, Nancy Shevell, entitled "My Valentine":

As days and nights
Would pass me by
I tell myself that I was waiting for a sign
Then she appeared
A love so fine,
My Valentine


The word love says it all; whether on its own (love), with a possessive adjective (my love) or with a descriptive adjective (my dear love), it’s frequently used as a romantic nickname in both literature and everyday language.

  • My love, would you please pass me that pen?
  • My dear love has gone away; how I’ll miss him!
  • Good morning, love. How did you sleep?

Francophones, like me, need to take note when translating the word amoureux! In English, the term lover can sometimes refer to a person involved in an extramarital affair.

Honeyed or sugar-coated

Looking for a way to tell your special someone how much sweeter they make your life? Why not draw inspiration from the name of a sweet treat. Jeff Barry and Andy Kim rounded up several of them in the chorus of the late 1960s hit they wrote for The Archies:

Ah honey, honey
You are my candy girl
And you got me wanting you

We could add many more words to this list, such as sweetheart, sweetie pie, cupcake, and sugarplum.

From royalty to the stuff of myths

Regardless of age, it’s quite common to hear romantic partners addressing each other with royal titles, such as prince, princess, king or queen! Who hasn’t come across a prince charming upon learning to read? My daughter, who’s going to hate that I’m telling you this, had the biggest crush of her five-year-old life on Eric, Ariel’s prince in The Little Mermaid.

Since they say love gives us wings, we might soar to even greater heights, with the most ordinary guy becoming an angel and a girl who goes unnoticed in a crowd turning into a goddess.

Tried and true

Looking for something more down to earth? You could always go with one of the classics; these words have stood the test of time across the English-speaking world.

Baby, sunshine and darling can be used at any stage of a relationship, from new love to long-term relationships.

Partner, better half, husband and wife are generally reserved for long-time partners or married couples.

A sweet mistake

I can’t resist telling you a funny story about one of my Francophone friends. She’s also going to hate that I’m telling you this! My friend is an event planner and was chatting with a bride-to-be. The woman’s fiancé was sitting nearby, and she kept calling him over and saying things like, “Honey, would you come here a minute?” or “Honey! What do you think?”

In the flurry of excitement, the bride-to-be had forgotten to make introductions. When it came time for my friend to speak directly to the fiancé, she called him Honey. Imagine her embarrassment when she realized that Honey wasn’t his first name but a nickname used by the bride-to-be!

What about you? What do you call your significant other?


The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Sophia Désir

Sophia Désir

Writing is one of Sophia’s favourite pastimes. She produced a radio soap opera and published several novels in her native Haiti. Sophia also worked in radio for more than 10 years in Port-au-Prince, covering historical and other topics. In 2021, she joined the Language Portal team, where she provides administrative support and coordinates the Our Languages blog.


Leave a comment

Please consult the “Comments and interaction” section on the Terms and conditions page before adding your comment. The Language Portal of Canada reviews comments before they’re posted. We reserve the right to edit, refuse or remove any question or comment that violates these commenting guidelines.

By submitting a comment, you permanently waive your moral rights, which means that you give the Government of Canada permission to use, reproduce, edit and share your comment royalty-free, in whole or in part, in any manner it chooses. You also confirm that nothing in your comment infringes third party rights (for example, the use of a text from a third party without his or her permission).

Join in the conversation and share your comments!


Comments are displayed in the language they were submitted.

Read comments

Submitted by Monique Gignac on February 6, 2024, at 9:45

It is interesting (and important for E-F translators) to note that the expression "my love" is not necessarily a term of endearment for Newfoundlanders, who may use it when speaking to strangers. For example, if someone asks a server a question in a restaurant, they may answer "Yes, my love" or "No, my love". In no way does this response indicate that the client is a family member or close friend of the server.

Submitted by Marie Ephèse Kean on February 7, 2024, at 23:49

Wow! Sophia en quelques lignes seulement, tu m'as fait prendre conscience des différentes appellations affectueuses que nous utilisons souvent sans trop faire attention pour désigner l'être aimé. Compliments!

Submitted by sophiadesir on February 23, 2024, at 18:36

Merci pour ton commentaire, Ephèse!

Submitted by Ronald Jean on February 10, 2024, at 11:31

Sophia! Your posts have become a true refuge for those in search of beauty and meaning in words :)