Expressions of Love
Valentine’s Day isn't the only time to whisper some Italian paroline dolci (sweet nothings) in your partner’s ear. The classics never go out of style: “Amore”(Love). “Tesoro” (Darling). “Cuore mio” (My heart). “Bella” (Lovely). “Gioia” (Joy). “Stella/stellina” (Star/little star). “Luce dei miei occhi” (Light of my eyes). But why not try some more creative nomignoli affettuosi (affectionate nicknames)?
Many Italian endearments convey the same meaning as English ones, except with masculine (“o”) and feminine (“a”) endings. “Little one,” for instance, is piccolo/a; “dear,” caro/a; “dearest," carissimo/a.
Other English terms don’t translate well into Italian—and vice versa. “Sweet pea” definitely loses some appeal when it turns into “pisello dolce.” "Nasone mio” (my great big nose) and microbino (little microbe) — both of which I found on Italian websites — won’t make any English speaker swoon.
In any language nicknames come in a variety of categories, including:
*Sweet: "Sweetheart” translates as “innamorato/a,” which sounds too formal in Italian. "Sweetie" is better, but rather than “dolcezza," you might say “ciccia,” "ciccina” or “cicci”–words that I, like many foreigners, mistakenly thought meant “fatty.” Or you could call your sweetie caramellino (little caramel), Babà (the name of a Sicilian cake), sorbettino (little sherbet), pasticcino (little pastry), cioccolatino (little chocolate) or biscottino (cookie)
*Animal: cucciolo (little puppy), pulce (flea), tigrotto (little tiger), pulcino (chick), topino (little mouse), gattina (kitten), farfallina (little butterfly) or grillo (cricket)
*Tasty: patatina (little potato), cipollina (little onion), fragolina (little strawberry), merendina (little snack), polpetta (croquette) or formaggino (little cheese)
*Playful: bambola/ bambolina (doll or little doll), gnomo (gnome), streghetta mia (my little witch), angioletto (little angel), fatina (fairy), scarpetta (tiny shoe) or fiorellino (little flower)
Click here to find many more examples, some more spicy than sweet.
A few Italian nome vezzeggiativi (terms of endearment) don’t have any specific meaning. So if you just want to express warmth and affection, try “tato” or “tatina” or "pucci." They can mean whatever you want them to.
But don’t stop with a pet name. Follow up with a frase d’amore, such as Vieni qui e baciami, amorino! (Come here and kiss me, my dear little love!) It's guaranteed to work every time.
Ti voglio bene -– I like you, I love you, I want the very best for you.
Ti amo tanto -– I love you so much.
Sei la mia anima gemella — You are my soulmate.
Ti penso ogni giorno — I think of you every day.
Non posso vivere senza te — I can’t live without you.
Non potrò mai smettere d’amarti — I could never stop loving you.
Voglio passare il resto della mia vita con te –- I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.
Click below for a delightful song about lovers and their nicknames.