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What’s the romantic word?

By Memrise Blog

In an age of lexical creativity that has given us “lit”, “salty” and “shook” to express states of being, have we come up with terms of endearment that better suit both a new generation of lovers and the complex context in which their relationships are taking place?

We recently polled our social media audience and looked into Google Trends data to learn if there has been any recent innovation in the way people in romantic relationships call one another.  Although our findings might not exactly leave you shook, they might just be little nuggets of insight into habits and innovation in the world of romantic English lexicon.

4Going into this, we thought bae was, by now, a regular go-to term of endearment  among younger generations. Surprisingly, it wasn’t even in the top 5 words likely to be used by our small group of survey respondents (50% of which are 18-24 years old). A glance at historical data from Google Trends seems to validate this, showing that having first peaked in popularity back in 2013, ‘bae’ is not so lit anymore – quite the contrary, in fact. Ever since 2014, the popularity of this term has been in steady decline, even if still included in listicles about millennial slang.




Which, then,  is the go-to pet name for our S.O.’s nowadays? Well, love is really all you need, apparently. “Love” was the overall top pick among our survey respondents (regardless of age, gender or country of birth), followed by “honey”, “sweetheart”, “babe”, “baby” and “darling”. A few extra interesting facts:

  • “Honey” was the second most popular pick among people identifying themselves as female, and all people under 35 years old.
  • “Babe” was the second most popular pick in the US, but the term is perceived as offensive mainly by those living outside of the US and UK.
  • “Baby”  is a popular term among 25-34 year olds but considered outdated by the younger 18-24 group.

So there were seemingly no major love-related lexical innovations, as far as this poll could gather. But perhaps the term of endearment of choice has more to do with geography than generation. Digging a bit more into the online popularity of “sweetheart” and “darling”, we found that these two ToE are primarily used in the North of the UK (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool) . Meanwhile, in the US “darling” is more popular in some Eastern states (Maine, Vermont and South Carolina) and “sweetheart” in some Western states (Montana, Utah and Colorado. Also, Hawaii). *Cue everyone trying to pronounce them in each of these regional accents.


Finally, although widely perceived as an offensive term, it was curious to find b*tch being picked as a term of endearment (first choice regardless of age), even if it was in the undesirable list. The runners-up in ToEs considered offensive were, wait for it, babe and bae.

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Are we really lacking innovation in the romantic terms of endearment department, or is it that we all unknowingly seek to call our romantic partners by names that echo the feeling of comfort, safety and protection that we seek in and fulfil through our relationships?

We’re keen to hear your thoughts on this!