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.

  • 9
    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. Jan 4, 2011 at 0:04
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    I dunno ... gag reflex? :)
    – Robusto
    Jan 4, 2011 at 0:27
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    @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, 2011 at 0:32
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    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, 2011 at 0:37
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    +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, 2011 at 8:52

9 Answers 9


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. Squee's attested by Oxford Living Dictionaries website now:

Used to express great delight or excitement.

Check out This Kitty! Squee!

  • 1
    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, 2011 at 0:36
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    Argh, I hate that word, unfortunate onomatopoeic thing that it is. Could be a candidate though.
    – Orbling
    Jan 4, 2011 at 0:44
  • Embiggens is also a perfectly cromulent word. Jan 4, 2011 at 3:03
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    Sorry to be pedantic, but cromulent is not comparable. ;-)
    – CesarGon
    Jan 4, 2011 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, 2011 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, 2011 at 0:02
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    Bluh. Good suggestion, but I personally refuse to use it because I don't want to be associated with Japanophilia. :/
    – Jon Purdy
    Jan 4, 2011 at 0:10
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    @Orbling: On this, all can agree!
    – Jon Purdy
    Jan 4, 2011 at 0:19
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    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, 2011 at 1:06
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    If you are going to give a Japanese answer, I would say "Moe" is more appropriate, as it can describe the feeling of seeing something cute.
    – Muhd
    Apr 25, 2014 at 22:49

Tenderness or affection come to mind.


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.


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.

  • I like this answer. Everything you describe is related to the release of the bonding hormone, oxytocin, in response to cute babies and other small beings, especially with big eyes in a small body.
    – user227547
    Apr 24, 2017 at 17:05

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.

  • 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, 2013 at 16:43
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    Martha, it is not always negative.
    – Tristan r
    Dec 29, 2013 at 0:15

I believe you are looking for the word "squee". It means to squeal in delight or excitement, which is exactly what most people would do when looking at something adorable.


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

  • 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, 2013 at 18:44

'Mawkish' (adjective) maybe the closest term. (I found it researching the same question you asked.)

'Mawkishness' (noun form)

'Mawkishly' (adverb form)

('Mawk' is not a valid word)

  • Please explain your answer in full. Why is it the closest term? Sep 12, 2016 at 10:50

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