Can you guess what these 20 old-fashioned terms of endearment mean?

How to express your love has changed over the centuries.

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How to express your love has changed over the centuries.
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Al Barry/Getty Images
  • Lovers, partners, and significant others have been calling each other pet names for centuries.
  • “Bully” was the “bae” of the 1500s.
  • While some names have remained popular, others like “tomato” or “lambkin” have fallen out of style.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

They say love is eternal, but language is constantly evolving.

Terms have endearment have changed dramatically over the centuries. For example, did you know that the term “bully” meant something totally different than the school yard nemesis?

If you’re tired of calling your significant other “honey” or “sweetheart,” you could spice up your Valentine’s Day by trying out some of these long-forgotten terms of endearment.


What did “I’m the huckleberry to your persimmon” mean?

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“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
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Culture Club/Getty Images

Popular in the 1830s, it was the comparison of something small to something great. It became a saying of love and “huckleberry” came to mean sweetheart, friend, or partner.


If you were to call someone a “mouse,” what were you referring to them as?

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A mouse in a cabinet.
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Tony Evans/Timelapse Library Ltd./Getty Images

Taken from Old English but popularized by Shakespeare, it means a demure or quiet darling, particularly a woman.


Not a knight in training, what did “squire” mean?

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A medieval reenactment.
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DEA / C. BALOSSINI/Getty Images

A “squire” is a man who accompanies or escorts a woman.


What did “lambkin” refer to?

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Lambs cuddle each other.
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Visual Studies Workshop/Getty Images

Used by Shakespeare in his “Henry” plays, “lambkin” can refer to both a small child but also lovers. It was an endearing term used among families.


If you called someone “golpol,” how were you describing them?

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Gold bricks and coins.
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Mario Tama/Getty Images

This 16th-century term to describe beauty was derived from the word gold-poll or golden headed, according to David Crystal’s “Words in Time and Place.”


What would you mean by the word “tib”?

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A calf in the snow.
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Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

You were calling them a young calf. In 14th-century England, calves were seen as both very expensive and also cute. “Tib” refers to someone desirable.


What did the name “ladybird” mean?

Taken from “Romeo and Juliet,” the name refers to a close female friend or sweetheart.


If someone called you a “duck,” they were referring to you as what?

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A duck swims in the pond.
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Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Darling or dear. This term was Shakespearean in origin.


What did the term “bearcat” mean?

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Two women are frightened by a bear.
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William Vanderson/Getty Images

In the 1920s, a “bearcat” referred to a hot-tempered woman with a lot of spirit.


What did “old thing” mean?

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A woman puts on her glasses.
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Debrocke/ClassicStock/Getty Images

In the 19th century, “old thing” lost its negative connotations and was used as a term of affection for one’s partner.


Besides the fruit, what did “tomato” refer to?

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Tomatoes ready to be picked.
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FRED TANNEAU/Getty Images

In the 1930s, the term referred to an attractive woman.


You may have heard of diamond in the rough, but have you heard of “oyster” in the sea?

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Oysters on the half shell.
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MARK RALSTON/Getty Images

In the 1880s, “oyster” referred to someone who stood out from others and displayed head-turning qualities.


If you were an Oliver Twist, it meant you were good at what?

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Oliver Twist.
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Archive Photos/Getty Images

Dancing. The slang was popular in the 1920s to describe a skilled dancer.


If you said someone was “all that and a bag of chips,” you meant they were what?

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An aisle of potato chips.
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Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images

If you grew up in the 1990s, you mean they were the best and then some.


What did the term “buck” refer to?

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A buck stands in the clearing.
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Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

In Edwardian England, a “buck” was a well-dressed man with a sense of fashion.


What was a “butter and egg fly”?

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Butter, eggs, and other cooking ingredients.
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DEA / G.CIGOLINI/

In the 1930s, it referred to an attractive woman who had many followers and admirers.


If you said someone was “cute as a bug’s ear,” you meant they were what?

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A butterfly on a man’s ear.
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Christopher Hunt/Getty Images

In the 1930s, it referred to someone who had cute or attractive features.


What did calling someone a “turtle dove” mean?

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A turtle dove perched near the water.
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Education Images/Getty Images

A “turtle dove” refers to a sweetheart or beloved partner.


Unlike modern day, “bully” used to refer to what?

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Victoria Justice at a movie premiere.
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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In the 1500s, it was a gender neutral term for sweetheart or darling.


What did “my little cabbage” mean?

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A pile of cabbages.
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ARIS MESSINIS/Getty Images

In 16th-century France, it was another word for sweetheart or darling. In French, the saying was “mon petit chou.”