Valentine’s Day is known among Latvians as Sirsniņdiena, which can mean Sweethearts Day, as in lovers, but also anyone you love. My mother called me, Sirsniņa. My aunt called me, Sirds, which means heart, as a term of affection.
For my Valentine’s Day post I’m writing about the words Latvians use to express love. These words are used much more conservatively than the terms of endearment I wrote about before.
Latvians are a reserved people. It used to be, and maybe still is in some circles that Latvians’ idea of a proper public display of affection was to go to church and get married in front of God and the congregation of family and friends. Latvians don’t say the words “love” or “I love you” lightly. People don’t generally use such expressions as, “I love this pair of shoes” or “I love pizza.” They like the shoes. They like pizza. “I love you” is reserved for spouses or fiancées/fiancés. They’re not even used for one’s parents, children, or other family members.
I remember overhearing a parent criticize an in-law for saying “I love you” to his young daughter. It’s not a phrase I remember hearing around my house when I was growing up. It should be enough that love is demonstrated by providing food, clothes, and a roof over one’s head. Some might say such an attitude is outdated, Things have changed, the world has changed. But I got criticized in a Latvian social media group for saying people should say, “I love you” much more often. That happened not only in this century but as recently as last year.
Here are those very exclusive words.
Mīlestība = Love
Es mīlu Tevi = I love you
Mīlulis = loved one
Mīlīgs = lovable
Mīļošs = loving
Mans Mīļiotais = my lover
These next diminutives are okay to use with adults, children, and even pets.
Mīlulītis = my little loved one
Mīļumiņš = my little loved one (smaller and thus more dear)
Sieva = wife (the diphthong “ie” is pronounced like the “ea” in “ear.”
Sieviņa = my dear little wife. It can be used affectionately, but depending on context can also be belittling.
Vīrs = husband (veers)
Vīriņš = dear little husband. Most likely used only in private. The word could also refer to a little old man.
Mans = (pronounced “muhns”) My. Masculine. But it refers to the subject, not to the person who is speaking. e.g. “Mans vīrs” is what a woman would say when introducing her husband.
Mana = My. Feminine, also refers to the subject. A man introducing his wife would say, “Mana sieva.”
A Latvian friend and I had a discussion about whether a declaration of love should include the word, “es” (pronounced like the letter “S.”) meaning “I.” He said that “es” = “I” is understood, so it’s enough to say, “mīlu Tevi.” Technically, in English, the word “I” would also be understood nevertheless people say, “I love you.” To me, just saying “mīlu Tevi” sounds abrupt, like you’re eager to get on to the next thing, maybe “What’s for dinner?” This rule could be a familial difference or a regional one. My choice would include the first person singular pronoun,
Have fun with these loving words. Use them however you please on Valentine’s Day or any other day you want to tell someone you love them. Some rules are meant to be broken.
Hearts can break when they don’t hear these words. And stay broken even though hidden.
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