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What do you feel when you see this?

Adorable kitten

We all know the feeling of seeing something adorable, of wanting to hug it, take care of it, and let our speech degenerate into mindless babble and squealing. But does it have a name? Adoration isn't quite it, and that's about as close as I seem to be able to get. For such a common and powerful emotional response, I find it baffling that there seems to be no word for it. If there's no English word, we should re-purpose a foreign one, as we're wont to do.

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I see a solitary predator that tortures anything smaller than it for extended periods of time. What do you mean? Okay, okay, all I have to add is "awwwww...". I agree that there isn't a good word that is strong enough. – Cerberus Jan 4 '11 at 0:04
I dunno ... gag reflex? :) – Robusto Jan 4 '11 at 0:27
@Robusto: The seat of emotions is not the heart, nor the brain, nor the gut: surely it must be the glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves. – Jon Purdy Jan 4 '11 at 0:32
Personally, this particular black cat is a tad freaky and very Gothic. I'm immediately reminded of the witch's familiars. I'm rocking back and forth at this moment in order to calm down..... – Percy P. Jan 4 '11 at 0:37
+1 @Percy. This image scares the hell out of me. Looks like a stuffed cat, actually. I don't find it cute in the slightest. (And I am as much into cats as anyone can possibly be.) – RegDwigнt Jan 4 '11 at 8:52
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Sometimes if we don't have the most cromulent word, we have to make one up.

I think the word squee is starting to catch on. Squeeness actually brings up a few google hits.

Not in the dictionary, yet.

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Funny that you should mention it, considering where I got the image. I hadn't even thought about it, but this might actually be the ticket. Not in the dictionary, emphasis on the yet. – Jon Purdy Jan 4 '11 at 0:36
Argh, I hate that word, unfortunate onomatopoeic thing that it is. Could be a candidate though. – Orbling Jan 4 '11 at 0:44
Embiggens is also a perfectly cromulent word. – Robert Cartaino Jan 4 '11 at 3:03
Sorry to be pedantic, but cromulent is not comparable. ;-) – CesarGon Jan 4 '11 at 4:59
@CesarGon I will take your point but argue that it could be controversially comparable, in the same way "most unique" is used. ;-) – ghoppe Jan 14 '11 at 19:40

The Japanese use the word kawaii to describe all things cute. It is a very major part of their culture in some respects, I hear many japanophiles and anime lovers use the word on western shores. So that would be my candidate for adoption, as it already is partially.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuteness_in_Japanese_culture

Our response to cuteness seems innate, and I have always felt is there as a protective device for our young. What we define as cute is quite broad, but the very young tend to fit it quite nicely, we feel protective, maternal/paternal, certainly drawn towards the cute thing. The emotion is such a deep and strong one, that this feeling even pervades to the young of other animals. Indeed it is well observed that this effects many mammal species, with examples of one species looking after the young of another, such is the driving force.

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@Jasper Loy: Aye, I love it - have had it as my avatar everywhere for about eleven years now. Junior Gorg from Fraggle Rock. – Orbling Jan 4 '11 at 0:02
@Orbling: On this, all can agree! – Jon Purdy Jan 4 '11 at 0:19
可愛いことが嫌い。。。。。。。 – Robusto Jan 4 '11 at 0:40
Interesting... but does this actually answer the question? We have our own word cute that is the English equivalent to kawaii, but the question isn't asking for a word to describe cute things... – Kosmonaut Jan 4 '11 at 1:06
@Kosmonaut: Well kawaii always seems to be used in a variety of contexts that might well include the feeling as well as a description. – Orbling Jan 4 '11 at 1:13

Tenderness or affection come to mind.

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I feel melty, disarmed, and captivated. None of which individually express a descent into baby talk, but these words seem to go at least halfway.

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+1 for 'disarmed' – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 27 '12 at 21:37

I'm surprised that no one mentioned the word soppy, yet. Here: http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/soppy and http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/soppy?q=soppy

It's commonly used in the UK, for the kind of situation described in the question.

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The reason soppy wasn't mentioned is because it has purely negative connotations, while the... emotion? feeling? we're seeking to describe is entirely positive. – Marthaª Dec 18 '13 at 16:43
Martha, it is not always negative. – Tristan r Dec 29 '13 at 0:15

I think cuteness is a state something is in, that causes us to feel affectionate towards the person, animal or object. So the emotion-words would be attraction and affection, combined. In any case, it's the visual aspect that we call cute, that causes the feeling. More so when what we see is young and visually representing some kind of joy. Maybe sound too (when we hear baby's jiggling f.e. we think it's 'cute'). But no scent or phsyical touch, nor taste, can cause that feeling of squeeness (invented word for it, google it) or kawaii (as the japanese describe cuteness) -both mentioned before. So the cuteness in itself is not an emotion. It's an attribute of the sensory expierence (visual and/or audible) we have when seeing something that is cute, which causes a combination of feelings. All of which have concrete names. Affection, attraction, joy, fondness, tenderness, and probably a lot more depending on each different individual experience.

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It could also be the action of fawning, but that sounds awkward when I try to put it into words.

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Actually one does fawn over an infant; but that's more the result of the feeling which I think Jon was asking for. – Andrew Leach Oct 19 '13 at 18:44

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