terms of endearment

The TOWIE factor? ‘Babe’ voted the UK’s favourite pet name

  • Nearly a quarter (23%) don’t like to be given a pet name - ever!
  • Job interviews revealed as the least appropriate occasion for these terms of endearment

It’s common to have a pet name for a loved one, but how many of us actually dare to use terms such as ‘babe’, ‘buddy’ or ‘hun’ when chatting with colleagues or even strangers?

GalaBingo.com surveyed the nation to discover the nation’s favourite pet names, and also find out when it is and isn’t appropriate to call someone by these familiar terms.

Topping the list as the UK’s favourite pet name is ‘babe’ with more than 7% of the overall vote.

The term is often associated with the cast of Essex-based reality TV show, TOWIE, however, it actually proved most popular in the West Midlands, with almost one in ten (9%) stating that ‘babe’ is their most-used pet name.

In second place overall was ‘buddy’ (5%), followed closely by ‘honey’ (4.5%), both of which were more popular among women than men.

The UK’s top ten pet names are:

  1. Babe
  2. Buddy
  3. Honey
  4. Darling
  5. Sweetheart
  6. Love
  7. Boo
  8. Angel
  9. Hun
  10. Mate

But when is it appropriate to use these terms of endearment? A whopping 40% of people stated they only like being called a pet name by people they know well, and a further 23% claimed they do not like to be called pet names at all!

Women are more likely to be happy for a pet name to be give to them, than men (65% versus 45%).

The public voted ‘greeting your partner’ as the most appropriate situation for using a pet name, followed by ‘greeting a friend’ and interestingly, ‘speaking to younger family members’.

The top five most appropriate occasions to use pet names (according to the nation) are:

  1. Greeting your partner
  2. Greeting a friend
  3. Speaking to younger family members
  4. Sending a text
  5. Saying goodbye

The five least appropriate occasions to use pet names are:

  1. In a job interview
  2. Speaking to a taxi driver
  3. Meeting your partner’s parents
  4. When someone cold calls you
  5. On a first date

Regionally, some pet name stereotypes may have been defeated with this research. Where it might be assumed that the people of Sheffield would rank the pet name ‘duck’ highly, not one person from the city rated it as their favourite.

The most popular pet names by region are:

  • Babe:
    • East of England
    • Greater London
    • West Midlands
    • North West
    • South East
  • Sweetheart
    • East Midlands
    • Wales
  • Darling
    • North East
    • Yorkshire & The Humber
  • Pet
    • Northern Ireland
  • Buddy
    • South West
  • Honey
    • Scotland

Reader in Sociolinguistics Dr. Mercedes Durham commented: “Generally speaking, pet names, like other terms of endearment, can be used for politeness when you don’t know someone’s name, but also to build a connection. There are differences in terms of which pet names are used and who they are used with. Younger speakers might not use ‘love’ or ‘hen’ or ‘petal’ as much as older speakers, but might use ‘mate’ instead. Older speakers are also often perceived to use more pet names with strangers.”

Karina Adrian, Head of Brand Marketing at GalaBingo.com, commented on the findings: ”We’re all guilty of using pet names every now and again, so it’s interesting to know that ‘babe’ is the nation’s favourite – could this be the TOWIE effect? Quite possibly!”


All data was obtained from a survey of 2,005 people through Censuswide, unless stated otherwise. The survey was conducted online in December 2018.

For more information please contact Emily Docherty on emily.docherty@jaywingpr.com or 0113 887 3306.

Notes to editors:

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