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Norwegian Terms of Endearment and Affection

Norwegians have an old saying: «Kjært barn har mange navn» (A beloved child has many names). And what better way to use those terms of endearment than by doing it in the beautiful Norwegian language which sounds like a "singing language"?

While some might cringe at the thought of using cutesy language, and many Norwegians do, research suggests that insider language and pet names have the potential to strengthen relationships. [1]

So why not give it a try?

The most common Norwegian term of Endearment

« Vennen » is the most common term of endearment in Norwegian.

It translates to “friend” or “the friend”, but the meaning is closer to to the English words “love”, “darling”, or “sweetheart”.

This intimate word is mainly used when comforting someone and is reserved for close friends and family.

Use the term « Vennen » wisely, because it can come across as very condescending if used in the wrong context, for example, when talking to a stranger or someone you're not close to.

Here are some examples of common Norwegian phrases using the term of endearment « Vennen »:

Non-natives, and especially foreign street vendors, often use the phrase «Hei min venn». The addition “min” can make this phrase come across as disingenuous.

By the way, if you have Norwegian friends or relatives, why not learn Norwegian? It is one of the languages available on Pimsleur, and they offer a free lesson.

Norwegian terms of endearment for men and boys

Norwegian men are often reserved, and even though they love their friends, this affection is usually not said out loud. Terms of endearment between Norwegian men are usually nicknames or title words.

Norwegians also have a long tradition of calling friends by their last name, which is still true today. Getting a nickname is a sign that you belong in the group and, for many people, the absolute best term of endearment.

Other examples of Norwegian terms of endearment for men and boys:

Norwegian terms of endearment for girls and women

Norwegian girls are not as afraid to show their affection towards each other, and this is reflected in the terms of endearment which they use.

Here, the focus is more on looks rather than status. And while the men like to call each other by their last name, this is not common for Norwegian women. One reason for this may be that it is still customary for the bride to take the groom's last name.

Some examples of Norwegian terms of endearment for girls and women are:

Norwegian terms of affection

While Norwegian men aren't known to be intimate in their choice of words when talking to their male friends, they're not entirely stoic when it comes to their significant other.

Many terms of affection are gender-neutral or phrases to describe the man. This may be because Norwegian men are too embarrassed to come up with their own terms of affection. So instead, they just repeat the ones their girlfriends use.

Kjæreste / Kjæresten

Norwegians don't have words for boyfriend and girlfriend; instead, the words are combined into 'Kjæreste' (Girlfriend/boyfriend or 'Kjæresten' (The girlfriend/boyfriend).

This is sometimes incorrectly written as "Shæste' or 'Shæsten' by the younger generation, which is a play on how the word is pronounced.

Here are some other Norwegian terms of affection:


If a Norwegian man tells you he has to ask "sjefen" (his boss), he may be talking about his wife or girlfriend.

But given that Norway is the most gender-equal country in the world [2], many Norwegian women do not see this as a term of endearment and rather as something demeaning.


In the countryside of Norway, 'kjerring' or 'kjerringa' is seen as a term of endearment. However, for most other Norwegians, 'kjerring' translates to hag, the polar opposite.

Norwegian terms of endearment for friends

Norwegians often come up with nicknames based on geography, unique characteristics, or the person's given name. Many carry these nicknames all their lives, and some even make them their official name.

Some examples:

Norwegian terms of endearment for family

Standard family vocabulary (Mamma/Pappa/Bestemor/Bestefar/Tante/Onkel) is most often used when talking to, or about, grown-up members of the family.

However, some variations are worth mentioning:

Mamsen / Papsen
(Mom / Dad)

A less formal nickname for parents used by their children. This is not as childish as 'mommy/daddy' and is used mainly by pre-teens and young teenagers.

Filletante / Filleonkel

Close friends of a family with children may earn an honorary 'tante' or 'onkel' title. As this is not by blood, the term when describing their relationship is 'filletante' or 'filleonkel.'

However, they are called tante and onkel, just like those who are related.

Terms of endearment for children

While some Norwegian children get nicknames that last for their entire life, others are showered in loving names that are more temporary.

Here are some examples of Norwegian terms of endearment for children:

Common good night phrase:

Norwegian phrases to tell someone you like or love them.

Norwegians have three degrees of speaking their love.

1 Jeg liker deg
(I like you)

The least serious and something even a Norwegian guy might tell another guy. Comparable to the English version, I like you.

'Liker' has a second meaning for teenagers and pre-teens. In Norway, there isn't a word for 'crush.' Instead, teenagers ask each other whom they like. 'Hvem liker du? ' Saying you like someone may be interpreted as you being in love with them if talking to teenagers.

2 Jeg er glad i deg
(I care about you / You mean a lot to me)

Often shortened to 'Glad i deg'.

More powerful and serious than 'I like you' in that you would only say this to someone you really care about. Although it can be, the meaning of this phrase isn't necessarily romantic.

3 Jeg elsker deg
(I love you)

Often shortened to 'Elsker deg'

Said primarily to your significant other or someone you really care about. Only uttered if the person really means it. This phrase is not comparable to the English "I love you", which is frequently used as a mere compliment.


Although stoic and reserved, Norwegians are not heartless, but some work is needed to make them open up. You might also find that many only use these terms of affection when no one else is around.

This is only natural and an effect of Janteloven. A set of social norms that, among other things, indirectly tells you that you shouldn't show your happiness to other people as it will make them feel bad.

  1. [1] Cutesy nicknames strengthen a couple’s bonds -
  2. [2] Norway - world leader in gender equality - National statistical institute of Norway