a fond
la toile

How to Say Valentine in French?

Heart in a Window (c) Kristin Espinasse

In preparation for the 14th day of February, or what the French call "le quatorze février" (a.k.a. "la journée de la Saint-Valentin"* and "la fête des amoureux"*) we begin with a string of lip-swaying nouns. Go ahead and pronounce the first line in the next paragraph and just feel your lips move to and fro—the exercise is a perfect warm up for un bisou!

A smack, a smooch, a peck, a pash, and a bee-zoo* were once upon a time (and only in the land of lavender) known simply, humbly, endearingly as a kind of "poutoun" (poo-toon).  And in the Provence of yesteryear, Marilyn's "a kiss on the hand" might have been, and rhymingly so, "un poutoun sur la main".

Heart on Stone (c) Kristin Espinasse

Given that this letter comes to you just a few beats away from the heart of Provence, not far from where La Festo di Poutoun, or "Kiss Festival," is soon to be underway, I hope you'll give today's word—un poutoun / a kiss—more than lip-service by sharing this edition with friend (or "other"...). Thank you for reading and I'll now sign off... with a welcome change to "cordialement,"* "amicalement,"* "best regards," and even "cheers" :


Les Mots Doux ~ Terms of Endearment

It may seem strange that the French, widely regarded as one of the most sophisticated and beautiful people on the planet, use some of the most strange (and not so beautiful) terms to refer to their belle/beau, or loved one. Take, for example, "ma puce" which means "my flea" (very popular here) and mon chou or "my cabbage" (beau, n'est-ce pas?). Here are a few more ways to call your darling "sweetheart" in French:
French shutter (c) Kristin Espinasse
Audio File: be sure to listen Jean-Marc (mon trèsor...) read the list: Download MP3 or Wav file

mon amour (mohn a-moor) = my love
mamour = my love
mon bébé (mohn bay-bay) = baby
ma belle (mah bel) = my beautiful (one)
ma biche (mah beesh) = my doe
ma caille (mah kahy) = my quail
mon canard (mohn ka-nar)= my duck
ma chérie/mon chéri (mah/mohn shay-ree) = my dear
mon chou* (mohn shoo) = my cream puff (sweetie-pie, cupcake)
mon coeur (mohn ker) = my sweetheart
mon lapin (mohn la-pahn) = my rabbit
ma moitié (mah mwa-tyay) = my half
mon poulet (mohn poo-lay) = my chicken
mon trésor (mohn tray-zor) = my treasure
mon poussin (mohn poo-sahn) = my chick
ma puce (mah poose) = my (little flea)
mon sucre d'orge (mohn sookr-dorzh) = my barley sugar
*from mon chou à la crème

Blue door and shutters (c) Kristin Espinasse

More Love Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Amoureux:

  les billets doux = valentines
  fréquenter = to see / go out with someone
  amouracher & s'amouracher de = to become infatuated with
  tomber amoureux = to fall in love
  être fou amoureux/amoureuse de quelqu'un = to be crazy in love with someone

Grow your French Vocabulary:
Bonne journée de la Saint-Valentin = Happy Valentine's Day
la fête des amoureux = the lovers' celebration
bee-zoo = pronunciation for "bisou" = kiss
cordialement = cordially
amicalement = best wishes, yours

 Selected "heart" expressions:

  un coup de coeur = a spontaneous attraction
  vider son coeur = to reveal one's feelings
  Aimer de tout son coeur = to love with all one's heart
  Laisser parler son coeur = to let one's heart speak
  Donner son coeur à quelqu'un = to give one's heart to someone
  un bourreau des coeurs = a ladykiller
  Faire le joli coeur = to seduce
  joli(e) comme un coeur = ravishing

Street heart (c) Kristin Espinasse

Looking for a present for your Valentine? These two books are filled with love and tenderness and are appropriate for Valentines of all ages:


Words in a French Life Words in a French Life: Lessons in LOVE and Language from the South of France. Click here to order.


Blossoming in Provence Blossoming in Provence: Click here to order

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Tim Averill

Ma poubelle! La plus belle poubelle du monde.
Ca marche pendant les moments intimes (si on a l'esprit americain).


Isn't there a phrase like "coup de fondre" (thunderbolt) that describes
being struck by love?

Karen Whitcome (Towson, MD. USA)

I LOVE all of these expressions! I don't know why but as I recite the references to little animals aloud, I want to put the word "little" before them. My little rabbit. My little duck.

Presently, I'm reading a book about Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Phillip calls her "cabbage".

How are you feeling, Kristin?

John Wines

Ainsi que "Mon ange"

mhwebb in NM, USA

Merci. I liked the play on words, "It's sheep!" I am partial to sheep since my name is Mary.

Lisa A., CA

I love the classic ones:

mon amour, ma chérie, ma belle, mon coeur, mon ange et mon trésor. Mais, je pense que mon canard est d'accord aussi.
Ah l'amour... :)


I remember "mon petit chou" from high school French class. I always loved it.
Yes, Kristin, how are you doing? Did you have your surgery?

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Hi Kristin,

I love all the sweet words -- especially with Jean-Marc speaking! I hope you are well. Did you have your surgery?

Take care!

charles Johnson

Which is more universally used for a kiss-- poutoun or bisou?

marjorie w.

SLV: coup de foudre = lightning strike

Kristen: bisou would be the singular :)


Il se peut que je me trompe, mais je croyais que c'est la Saint-Valentin. Bonne journée de la Saint-Valentin.

Suzanne Codi, Washington, DC

Love "Poutoun" never heard it before! Definitely sounds provencal, too cute.
Lily is " ma biche" , but also love mon petit pot de creme and mon tresor cheri adore'... much more expressive than darling or baby, in my humble opinion!

Poutouns to all of you too! xox

Patty Austin

Merci - is right. I love the heart photo especially during America's Heart Healthy month :) Quick note, just bought your books and I can not wait until they arrive here in Washington, DC! We appreciate your words, messages and photos of France, and one day will be wine tasting in your beautiful country.


encore un : ma biche .
et Vive la St Valentin!


Quand j'étais à Paris comme étudiante, ma propriétaire appelait son fils "mon petit minou".

Hello Kristin, I read that you had surgery last Tuesday. J'espère que tout s'est bien passé. We all can wait for you to recover. Repose-toi bien.

De gros "poutous"!

Kristin Espinasse

Marjorie, thank you for the correction (un bisou, and not un bisous)

John, thanks for mon ange. Ill add it to the list.

Charles, poutoun is not used these days (perhaps those who still speak Provençal, use it?). Best to use bisou.

Lynne, thank you for the correction (la Saint-Valentin)

Thank you all for your thoughts and notes about my surgery -- which went very very well! I will update you soon.

nadine goodban

Bonjour et bonne fête de la St Valentin à tous!
En ce qui concerne "mon chou": ceci est l'abréviation de "chou à la crème" et non du "cabbage"... Please spread this word all around you.
Nous attendons avec impatience de bonnes nouvelles de Kristin après son intervention.
Maman m'appelait : "mon âme" et Papa me disait: "ma poulette".....

gros bisous de Californie, nadine

edith schmidt


Just received my copy of "Blossoning In Provence. C"est tres bien and une bonne valentin pour moi! I was also excited to see my name on your "editors" acknowledgements page. Love the cover aussi!
Wising you a speedy recovery from your surgery,

Edie Schmidt

Jan Leishman

Kristen, it was that picture of the sheep at Les Arcs that I printed out and kept in my journal for two years before we travelled to Les Arcs for a holiday - and saw the little house we have since bought.
My husband calls me 'sheep' and 'woolly' because when we met in the 1970s, I had a curly perm. My hair went back to being dead straight since 1978 - but the name lingers.
Have been thinking of you with your surgery and echo everyone's else's thoughts for a speedy and full recovery.

Ken Scupp

en Nouvelle Angleterre- c'est mon sucre d'erable! Please clear something up for me, I don't want to get in trouble. You use un bisou. Harrap's French dictionary uses baiser, which I don't see used here once. My french "slang" dictionary say baiser is used for the "whole enchalada". Can anyone clarify, I don't want to get slapped.

Marianne Rankin

I'm glad to pick up some more of these terms.

What is "chou de creme"?


Un autre question:

I thought many an American had gotten into trouble using "cheri/cherie" casually in place of "cher/chère."

i.e. The way I learned it, the first means "darling" and is only used for a family member or in a romantic situation. The second, I understood, corresponds better with "dear," something that can be used as a pleasant thing to say to the friend of one's spouse or one's spouse's friend.

Call a friend's spouse "cheri/cherie," we were taught, and set tongues a waggin'. Is this no longer the case?

Many thanks for the terrific lists, as always!


As a former French teacher and near-native speaker of French (lived in France in my 20's), I think I can answer the above three questions.

The distinction that you draw between usages of cheri/cherie and cher/chère is correct, MB, though an additional nuance is that the cheri/cherie is used for intimates in general, not just romantic partners. Parents use those endearments in addressing their children, too.

Ken, the bisou vs. baiser distinction is an important one for non-native speakers of French to get a handle on. Baiser, the verb, is the "whole enchilada." Don't use it unless you really know your way around French usage! In my experience, it is mostly used equivalently to the sexual-meaning usage of the F-word in English (i.e., not as a curse but as a straightforward reference to sexual intercourse). Not for use in polite company, certainly. The reason it is tricky is that the use of baiser as a noun is quite polite. It is the more formal way of referring to a kiss. Used in literature all the time. Used in casual speech much less than bisou, but used sometimes, nonetheless, particularly in referring to a more formal, polite kiss, rather than a casual, affectionate one (un baiser sur la main, for ex.).
Marianne, a "chou de crème" is a cream puff pastry.

Diane Young

Happy Valentine's Day from a reader/admirer who's too tired today to translate.


Hi SLV - the phrase is "coup de foudre" which can be translated as love at first sight.

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