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

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