Cariño – Translations, Meanings & Uses

What does ‘cariño’ mean in Spanish?

Cariño is a standard term that refers to a feeling of fondness or love that a person has for someone or something. Spanish speakers also use the word cariño as a loving nickname to call people they are close to, such as their friends, family members or significant others.

This word is frequently used by native speakers, and since you’ll encounter it often, it’ll be convenient to know how to use it and what it means in different contexts. So, in the following sections, I’ll explain in more detail all the ways in which you can use cariño in Spanish.

What is ‘Cariño’ in Spanish?

In Spanish, cariño is a word that is directly linked to love and affection. In general terms, cariño refers to a feeling. However, it’s also a term that Spaniards use as a way to call their loved ones. Additionally, its plural form cariños, refers to some types of displays of affection.

  • If referring to a feeling, cariño means ‘fondness’ or ‘affection’.
  • When used as a nickname, cariño can be translated as ‘darling’, ‘dear’ or ‘honey’.
  • The plural form cariños is a word that refers to a physical way of showing affection. It can be translated as ‘caresses’.

In this article, I’ll explain how to use this term in different situations through examples and phrase structures.

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Cariño as a feeling

As mentioned before, in Spanish, cariño is a feeling and can be translated as ‘fondness’, ‘affection’ or ‘love‘. It’s not as strong as ‘amor’, so it can be used to talk about people who are not even that close to you, but that you have positive feelings towards. 

Since it’s used to talk about affection, you can also use this word to talk about things and objects that you’re fond of.

[Verb conjugated] + (adverb) + cariño

Te tengo mucho cariño.
I have a lot of affection for you.

Recuerdo a mis maestros con cariño.
I remember my teachers fondly.

Mis tías me recibieron con mucho cariño.
My aunts received me with great affection.

Le tengo mucho cariño a esta mochila. 
I’m very fond of this backpack. 

Take Note: In Spanish, ‘con cariño’ also works as a nice phrase to write in notes or letters when it’s followed by someone’s name.

Con + (adverb) + cariño + [proper noun]

Con todo mi cariño, Paulina.
With all my love, Paulina.

Con cariño, la familia Hernández.
With love, the Hernández family.

As a nickname for loved ones

In Castilian Spanish, people use cariño as a way to call their loved ones. Although it’s not a rule of thumb, this word is commonly used among married couples and by parents to their children. Since this term is very common in Castilian Spanish, you’ll find it in movies, tv shows, and books. 

Cariño + [complement]

Te amo, cariño.
I love you, darling.

Cariño, ya está la cena.
Honey, dinner’s ready.

¿Qué tal te fue hoy, cariño?
How was it today, darling?

Cariños as displays of affection

In Spanish cariños is a term used to talk about physical displays of affection. This word doesn’t only apply to romantic contexts, they can also be displays of affection shown between relatives or even towards pets.

[Indirect object pronoun] + [‘hacer’ conjugated] + cariños

A mi gato le encanta que le hagan cariños.
My cat loves being petted.

Mi novio siempre me hace cariños.
My boyfriend always caresses me.

A mi hija no le gustan los cariños.
My daughter does not like pampering.

Take Note: Cariñoso or cariñosa is the adjective used to describe people that like to express their affection to others. It can be translated as ‘loving’.

[Noun] + [‘ser’ conjugated] + (adverb) + [cariñoso/cariñosa]

Ana es muy cariñosa.
Ana is very loving.

Tu mamá era la persona más cariñosa que he conocido.
Your mom was the most loving person I have ever met.

Synonyms for ‘cariño’ in Spanish

Afecto is the direct translation of ‘affection’. It’s used in more formal contexts.

Mimos are expressions and signs of love, particularly kisses, hugs, and caresses. An approximate translation in English would be ‘pampering’.

Querido and its femenine form ‘querida’ mean ‘dear’ or ‘darling’.

Mi amor is an affectionate nickname that couples and people use as a way to show affection to someone. It is the direct translation of ‘my love’.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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