Darling, love, sweetheart, baby, honey – we love our pet names. It’s not generally a subject covered in language lessons, so it’s time to pull our words of love out of the shadows and onto the dance floor. Just remember that whether you’re addressing your babe or babies, you’ll want to preface these phrases with ‘e’ most of the time.
E ipo was probably the first term of endearment I ever learnt (thanks Dalvanius) and it’s a goodun. I remember the term whaiāipo being explained to me as “the one you pursue in the night” and the romantic imagery of midnight trysts has stayed with me ever since.
The second term I learnt was e te tau, or in full te tau o te ate, once again thanks to the Patea Māori Club in their waiata dedicated to composer Ngoi Pēwhairangi.
E te tau o taku ate
While this term is used to refer to a person, it’s also used to describe strong emotions.
E taea te ruru iho te tau o taku ate e kakapa tonu nei
Can the throbbing of my heart-strings be stilled?
E komingo ana te tau o taku ate me he ia waipuke
My emotions are all awhirl like a flooding river
A much more painful sounding term describes anyone or anything that has a hold on one’s affections.
te kuku o te manawa
the pincers of the heart
While you can use it in earnest as my heart’s darling or love of my life, it also works well with a sense of resignation or reluctance with regards to love.
Why on earth is he with that evil witch?
Koia te kuku o tōna manawa (‘cos he loves her)
Here’s few more phrases of the romantic variety. While the dictionary definition of the first – tama muna – didn’t specifically refer to a lover, I’m working on that assumption as the word muna means secret and private.
taku tama muna
my beloved, darling
husband, spouse, lover
my chosen one
the object of my desire
The next lot of phrases are particularly good for your little
my prized earring
taku māpihi maurea/pounamu/kahurangi
my greenstone ornament
my finest greenstone
taku iti kahurangi
my little treasure
The endearments above refer to different types or quality of greenstone, a common metaphor for that which is prized or valuable. Similar sentiments in English would be precious, darling, apple of my eye, my jewel, my treasure. It’s not just greenstone that does double duty as a word of love, similar terms of endearment come from other adornments.
treasured heron plume
Just as in English, there are some endearments specifically for boys and girls.
e taku māhuri tōtara
my tōtara sapling
Men in oratory are often referred to as tōtara, so this phrase is particularly suited to young boys – especially when they’re at that skinny, growing-like-a-weed phase but you can see the man you hope they’ll become.
taku māreikura / taku tuhi māreikura
Māreikura are atua who dwell in Ngā Rangi Tūhāhā; although māreikura are nothing like Western angels, they’re both divine, other-wordly beings used as terms of endearment for young girls.
e te paruhi
e taku kōmata
While most of the pet-names above use objects as metaphors, these last two are a little more abstract. Paruhi refers to something which is of high quality and completely flawless. Kōmata is the zenith, the highest point of the sun. While it’s tricky to find English equivalents they’re both used to tell your beloved ones how absolutely perfect you think they are. So now you know how, what are you waiting for?