What Is The Deal With Saying Girlfriend In German?

Even though the US lags behind the rest of the world according to Pew Research in learning a foreign language, there are still plenty of Americans who take up another language. A common motivation can be the people you love and the people you meet. When learning a second language, like German, you don’t want to just stick with the formal speech though.

Girlfriend in German is meine Freundin, but it’s tricky to use because this really means ‘my friend who is a girl’. However, Germans often use pet names for romantic partners like schatz (honey), liebling (darling), schatzi (sweetheart), or more literally, animal names like Schnecke (snail).

For some people learning German, you may have met someone you were interested in dating. Or, maybe you already have a significant other who is fluent in German and they inspired you to pick up their language. Whatever your motivations, you have reached the point where you would like to learn how to say “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” in German, as well as some common pet names used in this language.

Just like in English, there are dozens of words you could use as pet names in German, as it depends on each person and his/her preferences what you may use.  Here, I will introduce you to some of the most common pet names, as well as how to call someone your “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” in German (and why that can sometimes be confusing!). Los geht’s!

What do you call your girlfriend in German?

Avril Lavigne’s hit song, Girlfriend (available at Amazon), has been translated into German.

To identify someone as your girlfriend, you would refer to them as “meine Freundin,” or my girlfriend. However, the situation can be a bit tricky, so read ahead for some explanation of the common difficulties in making this statement, and some potential solutions.

The word for a “female friend” and the word for a “girlfriend” are identical in German (die Freundin). Similarly, the German word for a “male friend” is identical to the word for “boyfriend” (der Freund). This definitely complicates the situation if you are not as direct as the typical German.

Have you ever struggled to determine the right time in a blossoming relationship to make that ‘official’ step, and call this person you’ve been spending so much time with your boyfriend/girlfriend? It’s a typical rom-com plot point for a reason, as many people struggle to ascertain the best time to have ‘the relationship talk’.

Teens and young adults, who are still inexperienced in love, are most often the ones who will avoid a blunt conversation with their partner due to fear of rejection, or general embarrassment. Instead, these younger individuals may try to wait and hear how their date refers to them around friends and family, to gauge if that companion is already referring to them by the desired title!

Well, if this is something you have struggled with in the past, I have bad news for you.

Like Germans do with a lot of things, they make this whole process much more difficult!

But hey, this is a great time to start practicing! Keep reading to learn more!

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TIP: There are some small clues to keep an eye out for to discern if someone is speaking of their girlfriend vs. their friend, but it’s subtle. For example, if someone says “mein Freund,” as opposed to “ein Freund,” then this individual is introducing their boyfriend! The same is true of “girlfriend.” You can see the difficulty in picking up this subtle sound difference, though, so be sure to listen carefully!

After learning this information, you may now be nervous to accidentally label a friend as something more.

My trick here is that I almost always refer to friends as “a friend of mine,” or “ein Freund von mir.” This is a bit of a mouthful, but it ensures that no one mishears/misunderstands my intention, and so I find it easier to do this in the long run!

Ultimately though, sometimes you just can’t avoid ambiguous situations. Luckily, Germans are in the same boat!

Since the German natives are aware of this problem, it is common for Germans to not assume unless they are sure; especially since sentence structures may sometimes force you to say “meine Freundin” for just a female friend (or the same for male friends).

So don’t fret; every German (and German-language learner) deals with this!

Pet Names For A Girlfriend In German

Do Germans have slang or informal names for referring to their girlfriend or boyfriend? If so, what are they?

Just like in English, there are German pet names for girlfriend and boyfriend too. Some common ones used for significant others or romantic partners are schatz which means treasure, but is equivalent to the English word ‘honey’ and liebling which stands for ‘darling’ but literally means favorite.

Keep in mine that these German pet names can really be interpreted differently by everyone, so I have done my best to translate the German pet names to the English pet name I think is most appropriate. However, I have also provided the literal translations for reference. So again, some of the most common pet names for a girlfriend in German are…

  • Schatz – Honey (literally: treasure), 
  • Liebling – Darling (literally: favorite), 
  • Schatzi – Sweetheart (literally: little treasure)

These may be the words you hear used most often on the street, in conversation, or on television.

Nowadays you may even hear Germans call one another “Baby” or “Babe” though! This is almost always younger generations of Germans who do this, influenced by English television, not surprisingly. Though to be perfectly honest, it’s also not far off from their own language since “Baby” is the same in German.

Beyond these aforementioned ‘most common’ pet names, the majority of other pet names are based on animals in German. For example, some common animal pet names would be…

  • Maus/Mäuschen (Mouse/Little Mouse)
  • Hase/Häschen (Bunny/Little Bunny)
  • Schnecke (Snail)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d like my significant other calling me ‘snail’! But hey, no one ever said Germans are the most romantic either!

Other typical pet names for a female would include Perle (Literally: Pearl), Schnucki (no English translation exists, just know that it is very cutesy!), and Süße (Literally: Sweety). Use any of the names mentioned in this section and you are sure to make your German girlfriend’s day!

But remember, there are going to be made-up German ‘pet names’ just like we have in English, too. For example, my great-grandpa called my great-grandmother, ‘Snook’, and I’ve never heard anyone else use that as an endearing pet name (this was before ‘Snooki’ from Jersey Shore, which you can still catch on Paramount, was even born!).

What’s the difference between Schatz and Schatzi?

“The song has an unknown background but seems to have its roots in folk songs of the late 18th and early 19th century especially in Straßburg, Stuttgart and Ulm.”

In German, it is very easy to create a diminutive form of many nouns by adding endings like -chen and -lein (if the root word has a an “a,” “o,” or “u,” this vowel will now also carry an umlaut).

This is similar to how English might add -y to the end of some nouns to make it sound smaller and “cuter” (ex. Kitty, Blanky). The occurrence of diminutive forms, however, are much more commonplace in German.

We saw this happen above with words like Maus (Mäuschen), Hase (Häschen), and Bär (Bärchen). All words ending in -chen are also now grammatically “neuter,” i.e. they now use the definite article, “das.”

Another way to create a diminutive form is to add -i to the end of the original word. This is what happened to “Schatz” in this case, to make it become “Schatzi.” Although very similar words, “Schatz” was essentially made even cuter/sweeter via this simple change to “Schatzi.”

This alteration adds some variety to the assortment of pet names available to people!

Can Schatzi be used for a man?

Naturally it is between you and your partner what you call each other! But you may nonetheless want to know the norms for what pet names to call your boyfriend/husband so as to avoid surprise and/or embarrassment from either party. 

“Schatzi” is normal to use for either gender. It would not be unusual to hear a man being called “Schatzi,” and I have heard it done before. The same is true of women.

To understand this situation, let’s consider an English pet name equivalent. The meaning of “Schatzi” is similar to “sweetheart” or “honey,” both of which can be used for either gender in English (taking into account the partner’s preference). 

You can also consider calling your boyfriend or husband Bärchen (Literally: little bear) and Süßer (Literally: Sweety) if you prefer! These are both common pet names for males in German.

You are now ready to surprise your significant other by expressing your love in their language; viel Spaß!

The Final Word for Saying Girlfriend In German

So to be clear, girlfriend literally in German is meine Freundin. The only problem is it can mean my friend who is a girl or ‘girlfriend’, so you really need context to know if a romantic relationship is implied.

Germans, like Americans, though also use pet names to refer to their romantic partner. Some examples are Schatz (literally: treasure) and is like saying ‘honey’; Liebling (literally: favorite), which stands for ‘darling’; and Schatzi, sort of like calling someone ‘Sweetheart’.

Also like in English, Germans might use animal names, or ‘pet names’, for their love interests. One uncommon German pet name is Schnecke which means ‘snail’.

For more German-related articles from Doublespeak Dojo, I recommend these:

Alexis Booe

Alexis is our daughter, an accomplished language learner, an international English teacher, and a seasoned world traveler. She brings tons of experience both in learning a language to fluency as well as teaching all levels of language learners in English and German. She has won multiple scholarships, including a Fulbright Scholarship to Germany and a full scholarship to LSU. She graduated in 2021 with a BS in Biology, a minor in German, and a concentration in Secondary Education. She continues to travel and study in higher education as she pursues her passions.

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