Finns are known as a stoic folk. The local people don't really go for small talk - rather than beating around the bush, Finns like to go straight to the point. This also goes for declarations of love and affection. If you are lucky enough to get a “Minä rakastan sinua” (“I love you”) from a Finn, you can be pretty darn sure that they really and truly mean it!
Although Finns are generally not ones for sentimentality and grand romantic gestures, the Finnish language actually offers quite a few ways to let the people around you know just how much you care. Here are some common Finnish terms of endearment and affection.
Finns mainly use affectionate pet names to address their romantic partners or their children. Other loved ones, including siblings and close friends, are rarely addressed with anything other than their name, or maybe an affectionate nickname derived from their name - but more on that later.
These are the most commonly used Finnish terms of affection:
These popular Finnish terms of affection also have countless variations. « Kulta », for example, can be turned into « kultsi », « kultarakas » or « kultaseni », while « muru » can be used as « murunen » or « kullanmuru » (which means “nugget of gold”). « Rakas » can sometimes be « raksu » or « rakkaani » … And the list goes on.
When it comes to these sweet-as-sugar Finnish pet names, there are two distinct camps. Some people love them and some people absolutely cannot stand their saccharine sweetness! Whichever way you lean, here are some extra sweet Finnish terms of affection to shower your partner or child with.
After first arriving in Finland, many foreigners comment on how difficult it is to make friends in this chilly region. There are a few reasons for this. For one, Finns tend to be introverted and don't really go for chit-chat and small talk. Again, Finns prefer to go straight to the point! However, once you get past their cool and calm façade, Finns tend to be very loyal friends.
Finns don't really have terms of endearment that are specific to friends. Usually, you would simply call your friends by their first name. Alternatively, you can use an affectionate nickname to show you care - this could also be for a spouse, sibling or child.
Finnish nicknames are often created by adding a suffix such as -kki, -iini, -ska or -nen to their name.
Other times a nickname could be shorter versions of a person's real name. Many Finnish names have their own established nicknames (similar to English names like James - Jim, Cynthia - Cindy, etc.).
Here are some examples of common Finnish names and their corresponding nicknames.
For more on Finnish names, refer to these articles on Finnish girl names and Finnish boy names.
Finns don't generally throw pet names around with their family members. Siblings, for example, are generally addressed by their first name only, or perhaps an affectionate nickname as the ones discussed above.
The same goes for aunts, uncles and cousins. A notable exception are parents and grandparents whose monikers have several affectionate variations. Here are a few of them:
The Finnish language has a whole slew of affectionate pet names and terms of endearment reserved for children. Many of these monikers are a take on words that mean small, some literally (Pikkumies = little man, Pikkuneiti = Little miss) and others more vaguely. Tirriäinen, for example, is a colloquial name for a type of (tiny!) bird.
Many of these pet names don't have an exact translation as they are often either "gibberish" or a cute play on words, similar to English pet names like bubba or snookums. Some terms of endearment are commonly used for both boys and girls, while others are more gender specific.
Finnish gender-neutral terms of endearment for children
Finnish terms of endearment for boys
Finnish terms of endearment for girls
The Finnish term « työnimi » (literally “work name”) refers to the affectionate nicknames given to babies before they are born. Parents will often refer to their unborn child with words related to their petite size - « papu » means “bean”, « toukka » means “caterpillar” and so on.
These baby bump nicknames can be real names too, but they are rarely the same name as the one the child will actually receive after birth.
After a Finnish baby is born, it is customary that their real name is kept secret until it's revealed at the christening or non-religious naming ceremony. Typically, the ceremony will take place several weeks after a baby is born. This means a nickname is also needed for those first few weeks, in order to keep the official name a secret.
Here are some common Finnish terms of endearment for babies:
Finnish is famous for being a difficult language to master, so it should come as little surprise that to declare your love in Finnish is a bit challenging.
Unlike most languages where declaring your love is short and sweet (think “I love you” in English or “Je t'aime” in French), the Finnish “Minä rakastan sinua” doesn't exactly roll off the tongue - even for a native speaker!
Because the Finnish phrase is a mouthful, it also feels more formal and perhaps more meaningful than a simple “I love you”. In English, you can say “I love you” to a spouse, a friend, your cousin or even a pet, but the Finnish phrase “Minä rakastan sinua” is reserved for the great loves of your life - usually your significant other and your kids.
Here is how to tell someone you love them in Finnish:Minä rakastan sinua (I love you)
If you hear this phrase from a Finn, you know you've found something really special! This sentence is mostly used between romantic partners or close family members (you could say it to your kids, for example). The phrase is quite formal and doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, so it really doesn't get thrown around lightly.Olet rakas (You are dear)
This is a more succinct take on “Minä rakastan sinua”. Not only is the phrase shorter but it also feels lighter and more on par to the English expression “I love you”. You can drop this sentence into a conversation more casually than you would with “Minä rakastan sinua”. You could, for example, end a phone call to a close friend with an upbeat “Olet rakas!”Minä tykkään sinusta (I like you)
While this Finnish sentence basically translates into “I like you”, it actually has a deeper meaning than a mere like. You wouldn't, for example, tell a casual acquaintance “Minä tykkään sinusta” but you could use this phrase with someone you're dating - or someone you have a crush on!Conclusion
It is well known that Finns don't exactly wear their hearts on their sleeves. It might come as a surprise then that the Finnish language actually offers quite a few ways to express your feelings. Whether it's for a significant other or a friend, this famously complex language offers more than a few ways to let them know just how much you care.
Initially, it might feel challenging to befriend a stoic Finn. But trust me: the lasting and loyal friendships you can forge with us Nordic folk is more than worth the effort! The same goes for declarations of love. Because Finns don't throw terms of endearment around lightly, you can be sure that the ones you receive are sincere and straight from the heart.
And who knows - having these Finnish terms of affection hidden up your sleeve might just make breaking the ice that much easier!