Vietnamese Terms of Endearment and Nicknames: a full guide

Vietnamese people love to give nicknames and use terms of endearment. If you’re listening to a Vietnamese conversation among friends or family, you’ll hear a plethora of descriptive, endearing, and funny terms used when referring to people.

The purpose of this guide is to list plenty of Vietnamese terms of endearments and nicknames and explain their meanings.

Commonly used Vietnamese terms of endearment

Let’s learn a few endearing terms you can use in various situations for an easy start.

Cưng/cục cưng

« Cưng/cục cưng » means “dear” or “honey”. This Vietnamese term of endearment is used by adults to refer to young children. It is also used by people who are dating or married to refer to each other.

In very few instances, men may use it to flirt with women, but you should avoid it to avoid sounding uneducated and disrespectful.

Cục vàng

« Cục vàng » is another commonly used Vietnamese term of endearment, this one literally translates to “a piece of gold”.

This term refers to someone that plays an integral part in your life. People use this term to refer to any family member, partner, or friend they adore.

Tình yêu

The Vietnamese word « Tình yêu » means “love”.

As a Vietnamese term of endearment, it works very similarly to “love” in English, and it depends on how affectionate you personally like to be.

For example, some people use this term of endearment with their best friends, and some teachers use it with their students.

Vietnamese unisex terms of endearments for relationships

Gấu

« Gấu », which literally translates to “bear”, is a common Vietnamese slang term to refer to the person you’re dating.

As a Vietnamese term of endearment, it is referring to a teddy bear, not those dangerous bears in the forest.

Chó con

« Chó con » is another unisex Vietnamese term of endearment. Its meaning is: “puppy”

Mèo con

« Mèo con » is a cute Vietnamese term of endearment which can also be used as a nickname. It means “kitty”.

Gấu chó

« Gấu chó » means “sun bear”: this is a bear species prevalent in Southeast Asia.

As a Vietnamese nickname, it describes a partner who’s cute and is sometimes annoying, similar to the silly-looking sun bear.

Em yêu / Anh yêu

Em yêu (for girlfriend)/ Anh yêu (for boyfriend): These Vietnamese terms of endearments are used among people who are in a romantic relationship. Their meaning is “my love” or “darling”

Người thương

« Người thương » literally translates to “my loved person”. This romantic Vietnamese term of endearment is used similarly “my love” in English

Đầu Gấu

« Đầu Gấu » means “rascal" or “bully”. This is a Vietnamese nickname which is used for a partner who is tough and hot-headed.

Cục Nợ

« Cục Nợ » literally translates to “a piece of debt”. This Vietnamese term refers to someone you’ve decided to take responsibility for, hence the “debt.”

Lợn

The Vietnamese word « Lợn » means “pig”. Depending on the context, this word can be interpreted as a cute Vietnamese nickname or a nickname that calls out someone’s hygiene habit or weight.

One should be careful because the meaning really does depend on the context. Some people are okay with this nickname, while others are not.

Vietnamese nickname culture

Before we jump into nicknames, let’s go over Vietnamese nicknaming etiquettes. You’ll soon find out that there are plenty of cute and endearing terms. However, there are also sarcastic nicknames or nicknames that poke at a person’s physical features or personality.

While this may seem offensive to some cultures, it’s normal to give mocking nicknames among friends in Vietnamese culture.

In Vietnamese culture, some people don’t like to display affection so they use teasing or sarcasm to express it instead.

Cute Vietnamese nicknames for a boyfriend or husband

The Vietnamese language provides plenty of possible nicknames for boyfriends and husbands. Here are some examples:

Soái ca

« Soái ca » means “handsome”. This cute Vietnamese nickname has its origin in Chinese romance novels that are widely translated and read in Vietnam.

« Soái ca » is used as a Vietnamese nickname for a boyfriend who is a handsome, smart, loyal, talented, and caring man. He’s essentially the whole package.

Ông già

« Ông già » meaning “old man”, is a Vietnamese nickname commonly used among older couples, but a fair share of young people also use it. The female version of it is « bà già ».

Đại ca

Đại ca: “boss” or “gang leader”
This Vietnamese term, which is also the word for a gang leader, refers to a partner who fits that style.

Chí Phèo

Chí Phèo: The name of a famous character in a Vietnamese novel about a peasant named Chí Phèo, who was a poor man born into misfortune but found true love with Thị Nở, a woman with a similar fate.

It is a cute Vietnamese nickname which refers to a partner who despite being average in terms of looks and talent, has found his true match, whom he loves genuinely.

Ông xã

Ông xã: an endearing way to say “husband” in Vietnamese.

Cute Vietnamese nicknames for a girlfriend or wife

The Vietnamese language also has plenty of cute nicknames for a girlfriend or a wife. For certain personality types, some of these nicknames are more suitable than others.

Hoàng Hậu

The Vietnamese word « Hoàng Hậu » means “queen”. This word is used as Vietnamese nickname for a girlfriend (or wife) who likes things to go her way.

By giving your partner this nickname, you’re expressing how you’re happy to cater to her preferences.

Công chúa

The word « Công chúa » means“princess” in Vietnamese. This is a cute Vietnamese nickname used for a girlfriend (or wife) who likes to be spoiled.

Bà già

Bà già: “old lady” This nickname is more common among older couples, but a few young couples also use it.

Đanh đá

« Đanh đá » means “feisty”. In Vietnamese, this is a nickname for a feisty, hot-headed girlfriend (or wife).

Sư tử

The Vietnamese word « Sư tử: » means “lion”. This is another Vietnamese nickname for a girlfriend or wife - this nickname implies that she is a feisty person.

Thị Nở

« Thị Nở » is a Vietnamese nickname for a girlfriend or wife. This is essentially the female counterpart of «Chí Phèo » (see section above on nicknames for boyfriends)

Nấm lùn

« Nấm lùn » literally translates to “short mushroom”. This Vietnamese nickname can be used like “shorty” in English.

Bà xã

In the Vietnamese language, the nickname « Bà xã » is used as endearing way to say “wife”.

Vietnamese nicknames for a child

Vietnamese people will refer to their children only by their nickname until they begin primary school. Some people even get called by their childhood nickname until they turn eighteen.

Here are some popular Vietnamese nicknames for children:

Ủn

The Vietnamese word « Ủn » is a cute slang word for “pig”. In Vietnamese, this word is used as a nickname for a child, usually referring to a chubby kid.

Sóc / Khỉ

The Vietnamese words « Sóc » and « monkey » mean “squirrel” and “monkey”. These words are used as Vietnamese nicknames for children, they typically refer to an active kid.

Hạt Tiêu

Hạt Tiêu: (This Vietnamese term means “pepper”, as in a black pepper grain)
It is used as a Vietnamese nickname for a child who is shorter than average.

Bông

The Vietnamese word « Bông » means “cotton”. This is a another Vietnamese nickname for children. This one is for a child with fair skin.

Xu Xu

Xu Xu: literally translates to the “sayote”, a type of gourd commonly eaten in Vietnamese cuisine.
As a nickname, there isn’t much meaning to it as aside from sounding really cute

Tôm

Tôm: (either “shrimp” or a Vietnamese transliteration of the English name Tom)
This is a common and cute Vietnamese nickname for a child.

Bin

Bin: Simply a cute-sounding nickname, or a Vietnamese transliteration of the English name Bill.

Tũn

Tũn: Simply a cute-sounding Vietnamese nickname

Vietnamese terms of endearments for close friends

Chó

« Chó » : this Vietnamese term of nickname is used between close friends. It means “dog”.

Pet

Pet: This is the English word pet, which has entered Vietnamese vernacular and is widely used by young people to nickname their friends.

Điên

Điên: Another Vietnamese term of endearment which is used among close friends, this one means: “crazy”

Xoăn

Xoăn: “curly,” (the hair texture)

Cao su

« Cao su » : This Vietnamese term of endearment literally translates to “rubber”.
This is an endearing term for someone who’s always late.

In Vietnamese, people say « giờ cao su », which literally translates to “on rubber time”, to describe someone who’s arriving late.

Bồ

« Bồ » means “mistress” or “manstress”.
In Vietnamese, this is a nickname for a friend who spends so much time with you that people think both of you are dating.

Vietnamese terms of endearment for parents

This one may come as a surprise, but a lot of Vietnamese people speak very casually to their parents.

Below are a few common nicknames people give their parents:

Sếp Tổng

« Sếp Tổng » means “CEO”. This is Vietnamese nickname for the parent who is the breadwinner or who runs things in the family.

Vợ Sếp/Chồng Sếp

«Vợ Sếp / Chồng Sếp» means “the CEO’s wife/the CEO's husband”. This is a Vietnamese nickname for the parent who is the spouse of said « Sếp Tổng. »

Bố Yêu/Mẹ Yêu

« Bố Yêu / Mẹ Yêu » is an endearing way to say “dad/mom”.

Mẫu Hậu/Hoàng Thượng

« Mẫu Hậu/Hoàng Thượng » : “mother queen/king”

ATM

« ATM »: This is the English abbreviation for automatic teller machine. This Vietnamese nickname is a funny way to highlight that the parents are the providers for the child.

Anh Trai/Chị Gái

« Anh Trai/Chị Gái » : “big brother/big sister”
Many adults use these terms to refer to their parents to signify a casual and friendly relationship.

Conclusion

Learning how Vietnamese people use terms of endearment is a major gateway to connecting and building friendships with Vietnamese people. If a Vietnamese person gives you a Viet nickname, you’re doing something right!

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