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Terms of endearment used for children

US English for parents speaking English as a non-native language with their preschool children


Please note: some items in this list may seem very basic and obvious to those with advanced English proficiency. They were included in response to specific requests of some non-native speakers who found them useful.

Also: this list is just a compilation of current usage. It’s not a recommendation that people should actually say all these things to their own children.



(most topics have first a list of specialized terms, and then a list of typical sentences):

1. Diminutive words for objects

2. Diminutive words for animals

3. Diminutive words / Terms of endearment for family members, people

4. Expressing affection to your child, terms of endearment for your child

5. What to say about someone else’s baby or child

6. Babies

7. Greetings

8. Waking up in the morning

9. Clothing and getting dressed

10. Kitchen

11. Safety and injuries

12. Playtime indoors: fun, toys

13. Playtime indoors: learning, ABC’s etc

14. Playtime outside

15. Playing with other children (sharing, fighting)

16. What children themselves say

17. Daycare/Babysitters

18. Helping around the house

19. Bathroom talk, body parts

20. Bath time, washing up, cleanliness

21. Bed time

22. Words of encouragement, praise, compliments

23. Parents finding out what’s wrong and giving reassurance

24. Manners

25. Discipline

26. On the go (transportation)

27. Sickness, Doctor and hospital visits

28. Shopping/restaurants

29. Holiday/Special days

30. The adult world (seen from a child’s eyes)

31. Cuss-type words that (some) children are allowed to use

32. Cultural notes


1. Diminutive/child-like words for things

cuddly (any plush toy, stuffed animal, etc)

owie, booboo a child’s injury (could be a cut, bruise, burn, etc...)

dolly (for a doll)

duckie or ducky (toy duck)

teddybear (toy stuffed/plush bear)

bally or ballie (for a toy ball)

PJ’s / nighties (for pajamas)

shoesies (for shoes) (only when being affectionate or playful)

footsies (for feet) (only when being affectionate or playful, e.g., “Whose footsies are these?”, said while pretending not to know.) Note: there’s a game called “footsie”, where each person tries to put his foot over the other person’s.

toesies (for toes)

tummy (for stomach)

choo-choo train (for a train)


2. Diminutive/child-like words for animals


ducky or duckie (for a duck, regardless of age)

horsy or horsie (for any horse, regardless of age)

bunny-rabbit (for any rabbit, regardless of age)

doggy, puppy, puppy-dog (for any dog, whether young or old)

lambie or lamby (for a little lamb, or sometimes even any sheep)

froggy (for frog)

kitty-cat, pussy-cat (for any cat)

birdy, birdie for bird

When you want to suggest that the animal is very loveable, you can intensify any of these by saying “sweet little lambie”, etc.

Note: despite the above examples, it doesn’t work to add the “y” or “ie” ending to just any word to make it a diminutive. If you tried to say “roostery” for “rooster” it would come off like a joke. My son came up with “wrenchie” for his favorite tool; that was hilarious.


3. Diminutive/ terms of endearment/familiar words for family members, people


kids, kiddies, the little ones, munchkins for children

Names of family members

Father: Dada, Daddy, Dad, Pop (rare), Pa (rare, more rural/old-fashioned)

Mother: Mama, Mommy, Mom, Ma (rare, more rural/old-fashioned)

Note: supposedly when a baby first starts talking they will say Dada and Mama; in most families in the US it evolves to Mommy and Daddy, and later to Mom and Dad when the children get old enough and start wanting to not sound like little kids

Sister: Sis, Sissy (for sister; the sister in question won’t necessarily like this)

Grandfather: Grandad, Grandpa, Gramps

Grandmother: Grandma, Gramma, Granny

The most common usage is Granddad and Grandma, with Gramps and Granny having more of an old-fashioned country sound to many people.

Cousin: cuz (not very common)

Aunt: Auntie

People outside the family often use “Master” or “Miss” to address a child, as in “And how is Master John today?” or “How is Miss Jane?”. This is a sort of playful formality. Parents use it sometimes too.


Terms of endearment used for children

(all these are used by some people, while others find some or all corny, sickly sweet, excessively sentimental... it just depends on the person’s style)


Honey (one of the most common. Also used between spouses)


Sweetie (also common)

My Little One


My Dear One


Precious (usually not for boy unless he’s a baby)


Sweety-pie (common)

Cutie-pie (not for boys unless they’re babies)

Honey-bunny or honey-bun





Sweet (You can say “Hello, Sweet.” Or “Come here, Sweet”)


Hey, Beaut! Hi, Beautiful! (A father could say this when greeting his daughter) Little

Pumpkin (personally I dislike this one)

The Apple of my Eye (I also dislike this one; as a child I came up with retorts like “Cucumber of my Foot”. However, it’s widely used.)

Rascal (can be meant affectionately, for people who are sick of sentimentality)

Munchkin (as in, perhaps, “Come on, munchkins, we’re going to the show.”)

Expressing affection

You’re my absolute favorite boy/girl.

You’re my treasure.

Date: 2016-01-03; view: 1643

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