Sugarbugs & Cheese Weasels

newborn baby

Terms of Endearment

“C’mon pumpkin butter, let’s go.”

Pumpkin butter? I overheard a mom using this pet name on her toddler the other day. I thought I’d heard them all. Used them all myself. Bunny, sweetie-pie, dumpling. Considering the incredible amount of careful consideration and hand-wringing debate parents put into choosing baby names—I bought not one, but two books of baby names when I was pregnant–it’s a little odd that so many parents rarely bother to call their kids by their given names.

Not surprisingly, most terms of endearment are sweet foods. (Cutie pie, pumpkin pie, honey bunny). Although you’ll also hear a surprising number of savory-food-inspired names for children, like “peanut” and “potato.” We sometimes call our oldest “quinoa” (calling him a fancy grain makes more sense when you know his name is Quinn). When it comes to terms of endearment for kids and babies, clearly there’s just no limit to the possibilities.

I decided to draw up a list of all the names I’ve used or heard my mommy friends use on their kids. It’s a crackup. Sometimes the funniest nicknames are slightly pejorative. On a river trip last summer, one of the river guides unilaterally called the kids “cheese weasels.” We’ve often used “tootsie pants.” I can’t exactly explain that one, but depending on the scenario, it often fits. Whether you call the kids rug rats and ankle biters or sweet cheeks and cherubs sort of depends on the day.

What follows is a list of names used in our family plus a bunch collected in an informal poll of my pals. There are some names that I simply cannot explain (“cookie ears” and “little bucket”) and some that are family code words (“biscuit” is my friend Andy’s code for bee-atch and “LMF” is Christina’s code for, well, never mind).  If the name you so lovingly call your little darling isn’t here, add it to this list with a comment. I intentionally left this list out of alphabetical order, because I liked the stream of consciousness of how it rolls now.

A final word of caution. You may think calling your baby “poopsie” or “cheese weasel” is cute now, but you never know what’s going to stick. I have a friend who has gone by “Kookie” her whole life (like “cookie,” not “kook-ey”). I don’t even know her real name. In any case, it suits her. I also know of a man named “Tiddles,” which is short for “Tiddlywinks,” his childhood nickname. Tiddles’ real name is Lester and he is 70.

  • Angel
  • Angelface
  • Toots
  • Tootsie pants
  • Grumpy pants
  • Grumpapotamus
  • Crab Cake
  • Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin head
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Punky
  • Pookie
  • Pumpkin butter
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanut
  • Pine nut
  • Potato
  • Bunny
  • Snuggle bunny
  • Cuddle bunny
  • Honey bunny
  • Honey
  • Honey pie
  • Cutie pie
  • Muffin
  • Cookie ears
  • Sweetie pie
  • Sweetheart
  • Sweetness
  • Sweet thing
  • Sweet pea
  • Sweets
  • Sweet cheeks
  • Butter cheeks
  • Sugar
  • Sugar Bug
  • Sugar Plum
  • Cupcake
  • Darling
  • Love
  • Lovey
  • Love bug
  • Bug
  • Nulabug
  • Noodle
  • Boo
  • Baby
  • Baby Cakes
  • Babe
  • Bean
  • Sassafras
  • Sass
  • Spicy Pepper
  • Chicken
  • Goose
  • Little Bucket
  • Cheese Weasel






  1. Thomas Broderick says

    Nice job Helen. Does Buzzie know? Best, Brody

    • Helen Olsson says

      Okay, so i never said it was bad to go through life as a “Buzzie.” She is still a Buzzie through and through. Just a word of caution that pet names stick. What if Buzzie was “Poopsie” or “Cranberry Nut Muffin Cheeks”?” Now that would be a drag!

      • hey- at least you spelled it right -ie and not -y.
        The real reason why I was named Buzzie is because they ran out of nicknames for Elizabeth- which is possible when you have over 6 Elizabeth’s in your family that were still alive at the time of my birth (and your father doesn’t like the name Beth)- I guess “Buzzie” seemed cute at the time.
        But, if you smack talk my name in future blogs – remember, i can always expose to your followers where “maddog” really came from 🙂 xo

        • Helen Olsson says

          My dad was very interested to know why I was called “Maddog” in college. I told him, of course, it was because I was such a voracious student. Boy, when I got my hands on a chemistry textbook, I was like a dog with a bone. Don’t you remember that?

          • Helen Olsson says

            Just heard about a fella named “Tiddles,” short for Tiddlywinks. His real name is Lester and he is in his 70s. Love it and have added it to the mix above.

  2. Should I be embarrassed that my contribution was the most profane? If so, then I blame the endearing LMFs on my highly educated husband and brother-in-law. The original Big MFs.

    • Helen Olsson says

      My little butter dumplings never — ever– exhibit the kind of behavior that would earn them “LMF” status. Ever.

      • Dick Richards (Dick-Dick) says

        I don’t get it, by the way where’s lil’ dick dick? I’m 53 and I’ve been called that my whole life!

  3. Ours is a “Muffin man” – not from the song though. He’s just a muffin.

  4. Rich Kuzmeski says

    I don’t see ‘Snooky’ or ‘The Situation’ on your list.

    • Helen Olsson says

      Here’s hoping your kids are not called “The Situation.” Or “Snooky” for that matter. We do sometimes call our littlest a POW… “piece of work.”

  5. I called them Dolly or some version of their name, like Emilino friend-o-mine-o and Dylbear. But they were my dollies. Now they’re big ol’ adults.

  6. Nice job, Helen! I’ll make sure that my dad reads this.

  7. I call mine sugar booger and honey bunny.

  8. Chickenbee is one of my nicknames. My husband made up a little song to go with it (I know, I know, we’re disgustingly gloopy).

    He also uses Chickenpie on our cat (I know it’s not a baby, but we can’t have a baby so we have a cat).

    I use ‘beeble’ on basically all tiny cute things, and I have been known to call small children ‘fella’ also, and I’ve always been fond of the word ‘moppet’ and ‘poppet’. ‘bibi’ is also used all over the internet (spelled ‘bb’), but has disseminated into spoken language now too. Weirdly, my mom used to call me ‘killer’ (as in ‘slow down, killer!’), which I have never heard anywhere but my own family. My maternal grandpa used to call us ‘children and other small animals’, which isn’t exactly a direct term of endearment, but it always tickled me. Then there’s the southern terms, like sweetpea and honeylamb etc. Idk if people use this, but I like ‘fairycake’ too (fairycake is what cupcakes are called in Britain). I also get called ‘tinyshinybeeface’ and similar things, again by the husband.

    My friend calls her kids ‘sprog’, and explained that this is a British term (she’s Irish).

    I love terms of endearment–one of my fav fictional characters, Lord Akeldama, calls everyone ridiculously complicated ones, like gherkin, and darlingest of [name]s, and all kinds of little flower names.


    • Helen Olsson says

      I love these! we use sprog around here, too. my parents are Irish, so that jibes. Not sure that fairycakes is going to take off, but i do like chickenpie, gherkin, honeylamb. I’m going to steal some of those.

  9. Really? Baby? No Baby? Does no one call their child Baby? Because I’ve been looking around (it’s awkward to explain, so I won’t) and no one seems to call their child Baby. Does this really not happen, or does it just seem so obvious that no one thinks to put it on paper (or screen)?

  10. My son’s nickname through childhood was Gulab Jamun (he was VERY VERY VERY fat and round- hit 16kilos at one year old). (He is now 7 and 20 kilos, so apparently he was just very efficient early on.)

    • Helen Olsson says

      Goodness. I had to look that one up! For any one else who’s not familiar with the term: Gulab jamun is a milk-solids -based dessert, similar to a dumpling, popular in countries of the South Asian. Or so says Wiki.

  11. Jackie M Cofield says

    My now 25 year old nephew has been called OTT (pronounced Uhta) since he was 2 and had to have a surgery on his male parts, he told his Popeye that they hurt his OTT an well it’s still his name for family to this day!

  12. My parents were very unoriginal when they nicknamed me for the most part – Princess and Pumpkin. My dad also called me Junie B. Jones and Junie B. (he claims that he started using it before the book series). Of course since I was a moody little thing they called me Grouchetta, Evil-lyn (after my name Kaitlyn), and Kaitlyn Sybil Surname (Sybil is after the woman with multiple personalities).

    My sister was called Hong Kong Fuey (because she cried ALL THE TIME and she used to kick a lot like she was in a martial arts movie).

    My youngest sister was born when I was seven and I started calling her Boobaloo sometimes shortened to Boob (and the rest of the family took it up until we noticed that she didn’t know her actual name when she was 2 and we were forced to stop). We also call her Cry-lie (after her name Kylie and because she whined a lot – again that was a nickname I made up). She was also called Bubbles and Peanut.

    On top of all that my mother called all of us Love Bug, Sweat Pea, and sometimes Chickpea, as well as occasionally calling us Chicken Helen, with a French accent (though that was generally left for our chicken dinners) and her Chicken (without an accent).

    • I mean Boo Boo Fuey (She cried like she had a booboo and Fuey for the martial arts kicking)

    • Helen Olsson says

      I LOVE these! I can’t believe you remember them all. You’re inspiring me to do a Part II listing. Grouchetta is priceless. A also love “bubbles.” We’ve been calling our kids crabbypants lately. Or maybe that’s me.

  13. I was “Rabbit” when I was young, from the alliterative “Rachel Rabbit” – which led to my younger sister being called “Bunny” (as in a small ‘rabbit’) and later “Bunlet”, which she hated, which was our dad trying to be clever and turn ‘bunny’ into a diminutive. She also got “Lapinette” (from French ‘lapin’, meaning ‘rabbit’) for a while, too. Another one she had was “Bessie-Boo” (her name’s Jessica), which was shortened to “Bessie” for a while, before I pointed out once that the casual observer might think her name was Elizabeth. Although, that said, the child of a close friend who really is called Elizabeth is known either as “poppet”/”puppet” and “snowflake”.

    Also, there are a couple of obvious sorts of terms of endearment not on your list, like “darling”, “sweetie”, “darl”, “kiddlie”, “kiddly-winks”, and “strawberry”. (Okay, maybe not this last).

    • Helen Olsson says

      Wow, do I not have “darling” on the list? So obvious. I like “bunlet” and “kiddly-winks.” Very cute, never heard those ones!Thanks for adding to the list.

  14. so nice an awesome!

  15. I call my son boodle I don’t know why the word popped in my head one day and stuck…

    • Dick Richards (Dick-Dick) says

      My older brother is Richard but he was gay and took on another last name, when I was born, my brother was already 10, so the family started calling him “Big Dick” and I became “Lil’ Dick-Dick.” In Minnesota the boys knew us as the Dickies. Anyway, please put Big Dick on the list! It means so much to me ever since Richard got crushed… have a blessed day.

      • Helen Olsson says

        If I didn’t know better, I would say you were punking me by asking to put Big Dick on the list of Terms of Endearment, but given your name is actually Dick Richards, it must be true!

  16. My nickname was Meme (note the spelling) b/c when I was a toddler I couldn’t say Emily, so I would ask for things by saying, “Meme want____”.
    Our daughter is Amber which became ‘Bambam’. Our son is Nicholas which became ‘Nik-a-Nik’ or ‘Nik-a-Nack’. Interestingly, when he got in trouble, his nickname was longer than his name! He became ‘Nicolai Boriskevo’! Our youngest, Zachary, became’ Zach Attack ‘, ‘ Punk’ (for Punkin) or ‘Sweets’.
    Our daughter has a nickname for when she’s mad… ‘By’, short for Bi-polar. Not a PC name, but we use it in our home as a term of endearment.
    We have Aunts & Uncles who also go by their nicknames.
    Their names are below in parentheses & nicknames follow:
    (Erma) Dolly
    (Lola) Peaches
    (Eugene) Tibbins
    (Ray) Mans
    (Harold) Dutch
    I’ve also heard ‘Nuttykins’ & ‘Spanky’ & ‘Sparky’ & ‘Squirt’ & ‘Sweetiekins’.
    I’ll stop here. Hope you enjoyed!

  17. None of my family go by our pet names but we still use them a lot even though we’re all grown up now.

    My youngest brother’s pet name is Sunshine and he’s very protective of it, if my mum calls me or my other brother it by mistake he goes “I’M Sunshine!” very indignantly. He is 19 now and still does it! I also personally call him Bubba sometimes.

    My other brother is Boo Boo, and I’m Claire-Bear. I have also had the nicknames Peach Blossom (because I had very soft skin) and Spotty Dotty (when I had chickenpox or wore my spotty dress), though not since I was very little!

    It’s not just us who have pet names; when we’re feeling silly we call our parents Mummy-wummy and Daddy-waddy. I actually address notes or emails to MW or DW and sign from CB. That’s nothing, though, my maternal grandparents have always been known as “the Bogeys”, based on a secret code my mum and aunt made up when they were kids.

  18. I call nephew
    1. Little General
    2. Chief Majovie
    3. Balubi

    my niece
    1. Munchkin
    2.Pretty Girl


  19. My mom would call us monkey, and she always calls male children “little man.” I’ve also heard ladybug.

    My roommate once laughed at me, because I called her one year old niece “buddy,” and my roommate knows I only ever call the dog that. But if you don’t have the dog-connotation, buddy’s not a bad name either.

  20. My Dad used to call me ‘Googie’ and he forgot why. He always uses it during texts and at home. As a teen I’m supposed to be embarrassed but I actually quite like the name. I think it sounds cute and being really close to him, makes it have a meaning. I think you should add it on the list because It is very unusual but it sounds very cute.

  21. My nickname since my siblings were born is “Missy” I was always a little bossy and am now 30 and my parents both still refer to me as that.

    My sister was nicknamed “spike” due to her hair by my dad but my mum protested that it wasn’t appropriate for a girl so got lengthened to “pike-let” and is still referred to as “Pike” to this day.

    By the time my brother came around the imagination became less, my dad refers to him as “boy” and the rest of us call him by name (Jared).

    We knew we were in trouble when us girls got “madam” and my brother “mister”.

    My dad is one of 14 kids and not one of my aunts and uncles are referred to by their actual name.

    Brian: Barney
    Colleen: Bubba
    Nerrida: Neko
    Paul: Four Barrel
    Kevin: Spud

    The list goes on my dad whose name is Allan gets “fuddles” and “fudd”.

    I have a very short name, first middle and last name are a total of four syllables so I am resolved that my children must have names that can be shortened. Over the years “Tara” has gone from”stara” to “stazo” to “staz” to “spaz”. I get “T” and “tars” but Missy is still the only one that has really stuck.

  22. I am 46 and have been called tiddles by my family and now my husbands family all my life in fact none of my family and close friends have ever called me by my real name Helen

  23. My mother in law was sweet pea, my nephew was ‘little man’, my other nephew was’ cinnamin mini buns’, my daughter was boots in
    babyhood, my son is little one, my baby is EDBB, his initials. One of my family has 5 and one on the way ! Their grandpa calls them 1 of 5, 2 of of 5, 3 of 5, and so on. lol
    I like’ bean’ too. I use snuggle bunny for my KG boy. I like ‘ my little scoop’ too.

    • Helen Olsson says

      Ha! I knew a “Boots” in college. I wonder if she was boots since birth. Thanks for posting. cinnamon mini buns is a goodun.

  24. My brother called one of his toddlers Piddlepot—only till the diaper phase was over. He called his oldest son Peanut as a small infant.

    My parents nicknamed ME Chickabiddy, and sometimes called me Chickie for short.

  25. i call my son monkey, and my husband for some reason calls him stinky. I think monkey sounds a lot nicer

  26. My mum called me ‘Mon petit choufleur’ which means ‘my little cauliflower’.

    She isn’t French, and I do not look like a cauliflower, so I gave no idea why she called me that. I think it was a brain far and it just stuck.

    MY dad caleds me Stinks, Lily-flower and emosaurus (I was very into Fall Out Boy and black jeans.).

  27. S + Serena says

    I’m not a mother to a human child but I am to a canine child and she has so many nicknames and answers to all of them. Her real name is Serena, but I call her:
    S’rena b
    Silly girl
    Cutie girl
    Pretty girl
    Goofie girl
    Squeaky (hates squeak toys w/ an almost vicious passion)
    Serenity Mae(when she’s been bad)

    And many more in various languages. Hope you like!

  28. Crabapple! I don’t see that anybody has used Crabapple! I call my boys Crabapple when there, well, crabby.

  29. And when I was young I was called Gailseebub (short for Abigail).

  30. Where’s Chicken Monkey????

    • Helen Olsson says

      Oh, that’s a goodie. I just laughed out loud. I’m using it on my kids today. It seems like it would go along with “Sneaky Cheetah Pants,” which I sometimes call my kids when they are being sneaky.

  31. Muffin!

  32. I love these names thank you for posting them! I have quite a few from different people and for different people based on personality, appearance, title or something completely random.
    My first grade teacher called me Jewels because I was shy but a ‘gem to have in class’ and a lot of my teachers until 7th grade called me that instead of my actual name. My grandpa who I call Grumppie. Because he can be grumpy but loves pie called me space monkey for a while or just sweetiepie. My auntie was nicknamed thumped because she’d sit in a chair on the counter and thump her feet when watching her mom cook. I call her silver lady because of her Halloween cost when I was 3 (20 years ago). I have 4 brothers and learned quickly to give each names so everyone knew I whom I was talking about. The oldest was Brother the second oldest was Monkey my first youngest brother was and still is chubber blubbers, Bubba and Rodeo Clown. And the youngest was Buddy because by that time their was 6 of us and we ran out of creativity. In 6th grade I got tired of Jewels and started having everyone call me JJ which stands for Jay Jr after my great grandfather. Its the only one that has stuck besides Egg Baby which I’ve had all my life because I was the baby girl with no hair until she was 3. My favorite has to be Uncle Redneck though because my fairly out spoken great uncle Theodore would call me his favorite little pippy-dancer. I used to dance to a pippy longstocking song on my Nana’s (grandma) record player when I was little with a dresser runner (piece of lace) on my head.
    I had a cat named French Fry Prince that my younger brother Bubba would call ‘you weird little French or layfette from aristocats. I call kids I babysit Little Miss Priss or Mr Man. Sometimes others that depend on how annoyed I am with them. I don’t have any kids of my own just ones I borrow for a couple hours from my friends with permission and give back when its time for bed. Lol!

  33. My parents call me by a LOT of nicknames- Some are based off my name, Zarah (Zoodles, Zarahdiddlyicous, Zarahdoo, Zuzu, etc) and then there’s Pumpkin, Babydoll, baby, kitten, little bear- And then because I used to LOVE jumping in puddles when I was really little: Duck, ducky, and puddle-duck!
    My brother was always called Monkey Boy, because he would climb on EVERYTHING, and my sister was Goose/Goosie.

  34. Barbara James says

    In the movie Tootsie Robin Williams calls his children “My little nose-miners” – I fell out laughing about that one. I’ve also heard ankle-biters, and on one of my favorite vlogs “chidlins”. “Deductions” is another one I’ve heard, in speaking of children as a group.

  35. Allan Montgomery says

    My dad called me Buckshot and I call my grandson that. Dad had names for everyone. I have also been called Monty for as long as I can remember.

  36. I called my oldest Chubs because of his ham hock thighs when he was a baby and Doll even now (almost 30 and my youngest is Sqirtle (Pokemon) and Tater Bug now 26 ~ grandbaby girl is my Pookie Bug

    • Helen Olsson says

      Chubs. Love that. Though I can imagine that someone might not relish being called Chubs later in life!

  37. how about pooky, after Garfield’s teddy

  38. I feel almost bad commenting again, but I have a Nephew now! His name is Bentley and we all call him BenBen. Personally, I tend to call him “Bendy” and “Devil Darling” because of the game “Bendy and The Ink Machine.” Bentley is very mischievous and loves being naughty, so I ended up calling him the name of one of Bendy’s shorts, “Little Devil Darlin'” and then it got shortened.

  39. Preston Palmer says

    Up until my senior year of high school, everyone would always call me “Little PP” because of name (or should i say names haha). While it didnt help my dating life (im still a virgin) it earned me a ton of points with the principal. He was my only friend and to this day still calls to check in on his bud “lil peepee.”

    PS i was also called “ET phone home”

  40. Susan Robertson says

    I was Love Bug or Cuddle Bug by my mom, Squirt by my dad, Monkey when I was a little older and started climbing everything (the climbing phase didn’t end until my mid 20s).

    My kids are Muffin or Pickle Bottom (didn’t stick past infancy, thank God), Bug, Peanut or Crabby (when he was learning to walk he did a weird sideways thing at first that reminded us of a crab), and Sweat Potato or Baby. We had to stop using Baby when he introduced himself to someone as Baby!! He was 3 I think.

    I think I saw all of these go by above except Pickle Bottom.

  41. My name being an odd one most people don’t know how to pronoun it. So I’ve had a few names such as to, taz, and Tazmanian Devil. Also when I was younger my dad called me snickers.

  42. Natosha Malone says

    My mother-in-law calls me little-bit. I have also acquired the name Tota (Tosha) by a few of my family members. My daughter’s name is Zoey and she has a few nicknames but the main one I would say is Zobug. Before my dad past he would call her Zorge….lol… don’t know why, he was just ornery that way.

    • Helen Olsson says

      Funny, my daughter’s nanny called her “Little Bit.” I have fond memories of that! I like Zorge. Does it rhyme with “Jorge” or “George”? Funnier if it rhymes with Jorge.

  43. Hello, nice to read your article. My daughter – whom I love dearly and yo whom I used many cute endearment names – has a gorgeous 2 years old… I wish I could use all of the above, and if not, invent one name for each day of the year.?However, my daughter is telling me, in not quite a nice way, that “I choose a lovely name for my daughter and you should call her by that”. Strict, rigid and unaffectionate, that’s how I feel about it. Is it normal for me to feel that way? What should I tell her when I come up with cute little names for her beloved daughter, my wonderful granddaughter as well? English is not my first language, but interestingly “baby” “pumpkin” “sweetie” “bunny” comes to my mind when I address yo her. Any advice would help. Thank you!

    • Helen Olsson says

      Well, I’m not much in the business of giving advice (who am I?), but I can give you opinion and I’d be interested to see what others think about this. Terms of endearment are just that. They are meant to show affection and love for someone close to you. They are a sign of intimacy and closeness. Though the lady at the check out counter at the grocery store called me “honey” the other day, and that felt kinda weird. I get what your saying that some names just feel right. My kids are now teenagers, and I’ve just started calling them chickens. Like, c’mon my little chickens, let’s get in the car. There’s something to be said for respecting the wishes of the mother, but your daughter sounds rigid indeed. She’s lucky to have a grandmother around to love her 2 year old, and I think there’s also something to be said for the wishes of the grandmother. You raised your daughter and now you’re giving more love to the next generation. I say call her whatever terms of endearment you like.

  44. Never had a Nick says

    So I never really had a nickname, but my brother did, as did my sister. We all forgot why, but my brother, whose name is nowhere near this, is called “Morticia” and “Mortimer” and “Morty.” Me and my siblings all have the same initials: GLV.

    My sister is always called “Beebs.” Good luck deciphering that.

  45. You forgot Munchkin.

  46. Camelia, perhaps in direct address, you could call your granddaughter by her given name. But then skirt around her “no nickname policy” by using terms of endearment in a playful way, but without a specific nickname, in everyday language with the toddler just by just adding a cute little name at the end of a phrase. Such as: “What’s up, buttercup?” and “What a hug, ladybug!” A two-year old will usually be delighted with the rhymes, and associate you with that happy endearment. while the mother should (cough cough) appreciate the fact that rhymes help children with cognitive development, listening, and language skills. Know what I mean, jellybean?

  47. English isnt my native language, but my daugther goes by: my höna- böna (chicken-bean), sötnos (sweetie-pie/cutie/cutie-pie, if translated strictly it means sweet-nose), baby, honeybunny, hjärtat (sweetheart), etc.

    My son goes by: my gubb-skrutt (cant really be translated but is a cuter word for “old man”), lejonet (lion), hjärtat (sweetheart), heffaklumpen (heffalump).

    There are a lot of other nicknames and endearments that I use, but they can’t be translated 💕

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