Different social contexts require different modes of address in Spanish.
Here, we’re not just talking about the difference between calling a friend ’tú’ (you) and using ’usted’ (formal – you) to address strangers.
It can also mean using the right nicknames or Spanish apodos cariñosos to describe your family or your friends.
Choosing an appropriate nickname or ‘term of endearment’ requires a little knowledge of how and when they’re used, which we’ve covered below. When you’re ready, you can explore the list further down which will help you to start throwing the Spanish nicknames into conversations with your friends and family. 😄
How are Spanish nicknames used?
Spanish nicknames are used in different contexts.
There are some apodos (nicknames) that are used between friends, some used to address your family and others for your spouse or significant other.
They’re formed in different ways and have different origins.
Forming Spanish nicknames
Some Spanish apodos are formed using diminutives.
They feature the suffixes -ito or -ita at the end of a person’s name, an adjective or a noun. For instance, the nickname gordito uses the Spanish adjective gordo in its diminutive form, and has the diminutive suffix -ito added to the end.
¿Que pasa gordito?
There are a variety of Spanish nicknames that are derived from animals as well, which is often because the qualities of those animals can be applied to the person being addressed.
For example, the nickname un lobo/una loba can sometimes be used where an individual is sly, solitary or astute.
Eres un lobo solitario.
Creo que eres un lobo con piel de cordero.
Why are los apodos used in Spanish?
Not only are Spanish nicknames used as terms of endearment, they can also be used in comic ways to categorize individuals into different groups.
They’re used among friends and family, or you can use them with your close partner, as they’re a great way to share ‘in-jokes’ or show affection towards one another.
Now that you know how Spanish nicknames are used, take a look at our list of the top, frequently used Spanish nicknames/apodos cariñosos for your friends and family! Remember to always consider the context in which you are using them and be sure to address the right people with the right apodo.
Spanish nicknames_ _for significant others
Here are some frequently used Spanish nicknames to use for romantic partners, boyfriends, girlfriends and significant others.
Show them how much they mean to you with one of these apodos.
The nickname cariño translates as ‘darling’ in English. It’s a word typically used in an affectionate context between couples and is another loving term to express fondness and how much they care for each other.
Voy enseguida, cariño.
Gordito/gordita (Little chubby one/pudgy)
Gordito/_gordita _is used between partners as a term of endearment and is generally not seen as an offensive nickname. It means ‘chubby one’ or ‘fatty’ and is used in a friendly, loving way. It’s sometimes used by parents addressing young children.
¿Vas a comer toda la comida, gordito?
Mi sirenita (My little mermaid)
Calling a significant other mi sirenita is a way of expressing your love for them. It literally translates as ‘little mermaid’, but it’s a loving term frequently used in romantic contexts between couples.
¿Sabes que? Eres mi sirenita preciosa.
Mi vida (My life/my world/my soulmate)
Using mi vida as a nickname for your significant other expresses how much they really mean to you.
This is an affectionate apodo that literally translates as ‘my life’ and is used to show how important your partner is to you.
María, mi vida, te quiero mucho. Estoy a tu lado, pase lo que pase.
Mi amor (My love)
The literal translation of the Spanish nickname mi amor, would be ‘my love’.
It’s typically used between partners as term to express affection and emphasize their love for each other.
Alicia, mi amor, tengo un regalo para ti.
Querido/querida (Dear/my love/dearest)
Meaning ‘darling’ or ‘beloved’, not only is the Spanish word querido used for personal correspondence or to write letters to friends, It’s also used as an _apodo _to address those close to you.
En realidad, no me lo expliques, querida.
Mi alma (My soul/my soul mate)
The word alma in Spanish translates as ‘soul’ in English.
Used as a nickname, the Spanish phrase mi alma is frequently used by couples in a romantic context. It’s used an apodo cariñoso that both shows your deep appreciation of your romantic partner and indicates how significant they’re to you.
Julia, alma mía, no puedo estar sin ti.
Spanish nicknames to use for close friends
This list of apodos can be used for your close friends and those who you know very well.
Your friends might be like your second family – so using some of these affectionate terms to address them can show how much you respect them.
The literal translation of primo/prima is ‘cousin’, but it’s also a Spanish nickname that is frequently used to refer to someone who is your close friend. If you have grown up in the same neighborhood with someone and maintained a close friendship with them, you can refer to them as your primo/prima.
¡Ángel, primo! ¿Como vas en la Universidad?
Hermano/hermana (Brother, sister)
The Spanish words hermano/hermana _literally mean ‘brother’ and ‘sister’, but in a similar way to _primo/prima they’re also used to refer someone who is your close friend or a person who you know very well.
¡Antonio, hermano! Cuanto tiempo. ¿Que tal todo?
We use this apodo not only when addressing children, but with adults as well. If someone uses the phrase ¡que mono!, (how cute), they’re usually expressing affection for a cute person or a cute thing. Be careful though, its meaning can vary in other Spanish speaking countries such as in Costa Rica, where some people use it to describe scroungers and freeloaders.
¡Mira que cosa más chula!
¿Eres muy chulo tío, sabes?
Hola chula. ¿Que tal todo?
Spanish nicknames to use for Children
We have an immense, unquantifiable amount of love for our children. These apodos cariñosos are exactly what you need to affectionately address your kids in Spanish and show how much you love them.
Nene (Little boy/little girl/baby/darling)
We use the word nene to describe boys and girls that are very young. Within the context of a close family relationship, a mother might refer to their son or daughter as _nene _throughout their lives even when they have grown up.
Hola nena, feliz cumple. Que cumplas mucho más.
Peque (Little one, kid)
The Spanish word peque is an apodo frequently used by parents when referring to their own young children. It translates as ‘little boy/little girl’.
No estoy bromeando. Ven aquí ahora mismo, peque.
En cuanto el peque este listo, saldremos.
Chiquito/Chiquita (Little one)
Formed from the Spanish noun chico/chica, the nickname chiquito/chiquita _refers to a small child or a baby. It takes the diminutive form and has the suffix -_ito (for boys) or -ita(for girls) depending on who you are addressing.
Eres mi chiquito. Te quiero.
Mi corazón/corazón (My heart/sweetheart)
The Spanish nickname mi corazón is an affectionate term that can be used when addressing a young child.
Patricia, mi corazón, ven conmigo. Venga.
Pollito (Little chicken)
The literal translation of _pollito _is ‘little chicken’, but it has a range of uses.
It’s used to refer to adorable or sweet young children, and the diminutive emphasizes how cute they’re.
El pollito está muy cansado. No quiere bañarse.
Eres un príncipe/una princesa (You’re a prince/princess)
If you describe someone as a príncipe, or una princesa, you mean they’re a prince or princess.
These are pet-names that Spanish speakers often use as terms of endearment when speaking with small children.
¡Eres super lindo! Eres un príncipe.
Spanish nicknames to use for family members
These Spanish nicknames can be used address members of your family and show respect, love and appreciation to those closest to you.
Jefe (Boss/the head of the family)
Jefe literally translates as ‘boss’ in English, but its use as an apodo is more wide-ranging. As a Spanish nickname it can be used when you’re addressing the head of the family i.e. the matriarch or patriarch – typically the father or the mother, sometimes the grandmother or grandfather.
Tu madre es la jefa, vale. Tienes que escucharla.
Mi sol/eres un sol (You’re a star/you’re a sweetie)
Used in a similar way to the Spanish nickname cielo, eres un sol is an endearing term that shows your affection or appreciation to those close to you. It roughly translates as ‘you are a star’.
Muchas gracias por ayudarme. Eres un sol.
Cielo/mi cielito (My little heaven, sweetie)
The Spanish nickname cielo literally translates to ‘sky’ in English.
You can use it to address someone close to you or someone in your family as a term of endearment. It means that they’re your ‘whole world’ or that they mean the whole world to you.
Gracias, cielo, por ayudarme arreglar la lavadora.
Eres un pájaro (You’re super clever/sagacious)
If someone is un pájaro, it means they’re typically very perceptive, have good judgement and are very sagacious.
While literally translating to English as ‘you’re a bird’, It’s used in a figurative sense and refers to an individual’s shrewdness.
¿Pero como lo sabes? Eres un pájaro.
Potentially insulting Spanish nicknames (depending on the context) for in-jokes
These Spanish apodos can be used to make fun of your friends (in an endearing way).
Be careful how you use them though, as they can potentially be taken the wrong way used in certain contexts.
Tramposo/tramposa (Trickster, cheater)
This Spanish apodo can be used when referring to a cunning person.
It’s used between friends if they cheat when playing a game.
¡Que no seas un tramposo!
Zorra (Fox/a flirt/a bitch)
In some contexts, the nickname zorra can be used to really insult a woman who is slightly promiscuous, but if it comes from a friend it could also mean that they’re feisty, strong-willed or spirited.
Esa chica es una zorra celosa.
¡Siempre estás tan zorra!
Tonto/Tonta (Foolish, silly billy, dummy)
We use the nickname tonto/_tonta _to describe someone who has acted in a silly way, behaved like a klutz or has done something unintelligent.
Usage example: Pero, ¿eres una tonta? Te preocupas demasiado. (But, are you a fool? You worry too much).
Eres un lobo/una loba (You’re a wolf)
The literal translation of this Spanish nickname is ‘wolf’.
Used in a figurative sense, it refers to a person who has the characteristics of a wolf and acts in a cunning, devious manner.
Hombre, eres un lobo.
Keep practicing your Spanish nicknames
Using Spanish nicknames can be fun!
They enhance social bonds and show your affection towards your friends and family. Some are funny, some are sweet and others can be used to show how much you love those around you.
But as with any new language, it can sometimes be challenging to remember them.
What’s the key to using and remembering your Spanish apodos?
Not only can you memorize Spanish nicknames in chunks – by chunking those together that have similar meanings – you can also create lists like this one and keep revisiting the words you might not have used in a while.
There are also some great Spanish courses online that cover Spanish nicknames.
Using Spanish nicknames frequently, like all aspects of the language, is of course essential.
Try testing them out on your significant other or your close family members. Once you have gained confidence you’ll soon be using them to make fun of your friends, share in-jokes and begin sounding like a native.