Terms of Endearment in Pashto

Below are the many different ways to address the person you love – in Pashto. Needless to say, I’m missing many words, so please free to suggest more. These are the ones I use with my nephews and niece. Yes, they’re not necessarily or only for someone you love romantically. They can apply to anyone. My personal favorite one to use with my (girl) friends is “jaanaan”; my personal favorites to use with Kashmala and her brothers (my little niblings) are jaanaan, qurbaan, zarrgi (plural), da zrra sar.

To address them directly (e.g., “you”):
– jaanaana (my beloved, my love)
– jaan (my … self, my soul)
– da stargo tora (literally, the black of my eyes. Metaphorically, the part of me that makes me feel and look beautiful, appealing, complete. Also potentially: my eyes, the most essential part of my eyes without which my self is incomplete)
– da zrra qarara (the “qarar” of my heart – qarar literally meaning “solace.” Something like: “With you, or in your presence, my heart is at ease.” Or “You’re the reason my heart is at ease.”)
– zarrgiya (my (precious little) heart)
– da zarrgi sara (the core/center of my heart)
– da zrra takora (beat of my heart)
– da zrra sara (core of my heart)
– qurbaana (the person I’d sacrifice myself/my life for)
– shirina (something sweet, sweetheart, etc.)
– shaista/khaista (beautiful)
– khwaga (to females); khoga (to males)
– gulaaba (literally, flower/rose. Especially used by mothers to sons)
– zigara (literally, liver – signifies an essential part of the body, similar to heart)

to address them indirectly (e.g., “she/he …” or “… her/him…”), you basically remove the “a” ending of the above words, so:

– jaanaan
– jaan
– da stargo tor
– da zrra qaraar
– zarrgey
– da zrra sar
– da zarrgi sar
– qurbaan
– shirin (but no one really uses this to refer to a lover/loved one because it’s also a name; the above ones are more common)
– gulaab
– zigar

No one really uses khaista/shaista, khwaga/khog, shirin in third person when addressing a loved one; it’s always in the second person.

12 thoughts on “Terms of Endearment in Pashto

  1. What does khwaga/khog mean?
    Is it common for Pashto speakers to refer to their spouses by these names either in public or privately? Are there any rules?


    • Those are good questions, Samira! Thanks for asking!
      “Khwaga” (feminine form) literally = sweet. Khog is the masculine form.

      With a spouse/lover/etc., it’s generally not considered socially acceptable to use some of these terms in public. It depends on where you are and the atmosphere and environment, though. So, for instance, I can totally get away with calling my husband “janan” or “da zrra sara” in front of good friends or in certain public spaces, maybe even in front of my parents. Definitely with my siblings. It’s generally … weird, I suppose, to do it. One of my sisters never, ever refers to her husband in front of my parents in an endearing way. Public expressions of (romantic) love don’t carry the same importance or value in many South Asian cultures, including the Pashtun culture.

      🙂 I know I’m just complicating your questions more, but it’s that these are great questions that require a ton of detail and nuance. What I typically suggest to friends of mine who are married or are dating Pashtuns is to verify with their partner what the rules in her/his family or community are just so you’re at least aware and can understand why everyone’s looking at you weirdly if you do or say something that’s not considered appropriate at the time and place you’re in. But if you’ve something more specific to ask, I’m happy to provide more details via email or something.

      Oh, and with non-romantic partners (of the opposite gender), though, you can use them any time anywhere.

      P.S. Just realized you’re THE Samira ❤ Aww!


  2. And if someone calls you my beloved? or pisho? or rabbit? are they referring to you as a good friend or someone they romantically like? Hope to get your thoughts 🙂


    • That depends. On gender mostly. If a (heterosexual) guy said “my beloved” to me, it carries romantic meaning; if a gay guy does it, it doesn’t carry romantic meaning, as it wouldn’t if a heterosexual girl does it.

      Pisho means cat. In most contexts, I don’t see it having romantic value regardless of gender. I could, say, cutely annoy someone by calling them pisho & not worry abt how it’d be taken.

      Rabbit … As in ousai? I’ve never heard it used in any endearing sense, but it’s a common name in some Pashtun communities for girls.


  3. I would like to know how to compliment a male friend on his appearance. Like how to say, “Your smile is so sweet” in Pashto? Please help 🙂


    • Hi Neelam,
      That’s not a common expression in Pashto, so it may sound weird if you say it, but here’s one way: “sta muska khaista da.” Or “sta muska khwaga da” – I’d go with the first one.

      General appearance: “ta khkuley khkaarey” (= “you look good”).


  4. I so enjoyed reading all of these beautiful phrases and words. My husband is Pashtun and I speak a bit socially. I’m not shy in the least, I’m American, so my lack of modesty and inability to distinguish between the ins and outs of being appropriate in public is painful to say the least 😆 and I’m a feminist. But, I did find some words I learned from you and surprised my hubby with them. He kinda laughed and smiled lovingly at the same time because I’m not the most romantic woman, at least not by Bollywood standards in which the woman is never pissed off, always looks fabulous and sings to her man longingly. Lol. Shukria, za ma Orbala.


  5. I’m curious – would you use any of these with children? Which ones would be more common?
    Forgive me for my questions, I’m curious but I’m finding it difficult to find answers on the internet.


  6. I’m a Brazilian (from a German family) living in Macau, China, I’m not Muslim and I ended up in here because of the movie “Mute” (2018)*, but I really enjoyed your blog and I got very impressed with it.
    I’ve found out many expressions in Pashto have a beautiful sound even someone with ZERO knowledge in Indo-Iranian languages like me. Really loved it.
    Keep doing such a great job.

    All my best.

    Sandro Brincher.

    * The protagonist’s girlfriend says “da stargo tora” to him right in the beginning of the movie [around 00:08:00]


  7. Buen día!!!
    Dos preguntas,
    ¿Cuál es su significado? ¿se puede utilizar de un hombre hacia una mujer, la siguiente frase?
    “da strago tora”

    Disculpe las molestias…


  8. Thank you for all this helpful information! My grandmother (from Kabul) always called me fafo-jaan, but I can’t find any translation of what fafo (f-AH-f-oh) might mean, is this a common term that you recognize? Thanks so much!


You're welcome to share your thoughts - but I don't accept bigotry and don't publish all comments <3

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s