Terms of Endearment

Nicola here. Back in 2013 – ten years ago! – I wrote a blog piece reflecting on the way in which people have expressed their affection for each other over the centuries, which a month or so ago Pat Wench rediscovered when she was searching for Regency terms of endearment. We all got chatting about this again and I thought it would be fun to dig out and update the old post as it’s such an interesting topic for discussion. Times change and terms of endearment change with them – so here’s a new take on our favourite sweet nothings.

One day in 2013, a reader queried if my use of the endearment “sweetheart” was authentic to the Regency period. I was pretty sure that the word originated long before the 19th century but I ran to check my dictionary anyway and found that sweetheart was first used in the late 13th century. Originally written as two words, “swete” and “heart” it meant someone who made your heart beat faster. Back in the days when Henry VIII actually liked Anne Boleyn, he called her sweetheart a lot. Variations on this are “sweeting” which dates from 1350 and “sweetikins” which – extraordinarily, was first used in about 1600!

“Darling” is even earlier usage, dating to before the 12th century. Evidently finding an affectionate term for a loved one is something people have been doing for a long, long time.

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