I am wondering if addressing a person as ''Dear'' sounds casual, friendly or formal. For example, ''Thanks dear'' Is it used in business letters nowadays or is it outdated? I hear "dear" used a lot by non-natives.

  • 1
    It's not outdated because it was never 'dated'. I have no clue what created this new fashion, but I also noticed this, primarily in letters from China. I don't think this expression was ever in use in formal/professional letters before; it's definitely casual and hardly a thing you'd normally say to strangers. (note, there was "Dear Sir/Madame" which was the standard opening of formal letters, but addressing anyone as "Dear" alone, that's way informal.)
    – SF.
    Sep 4, 2017 at 9:43

2 Answers 2


Usage of "dear" in speaking to address a person is an informal way to express your good feelings toward that person:

You use dear in expressions such as 'my dear fellow', 'dear girl', or 'my dear Richard' when you are addressing someone whom you know and are fond of.

Note that the expression may be used sarcastically:

You can also use expressions like this in a rude way to indicate that you think you are superior to the person you are addressing.

Usage examples:

  • Of course, Toby, my dear fellow, of course.
  • Take as long as you like, dear boy.

In writing dear is often used to begin a letter, both in a formal and informal contexts:

Dear is written at the beginning of a letter, followed by the name or title of the person you are writing to.

  • Dear Peter, I have been thinking about you so much during the past few days.

In British English, you begin formal letters with 'Dear Sir' or 'Dear Madam'. In American English, you begin them with 'Sir' or 'Madam'. [written]

  • 'Dear sir,' she began.

(Collins Dictionary)

  • 3
    While I agree with everything in this answer, it omits two points. One is that "My dear X" (or "my dear sir") can be used even in fairly formal situations, and with people one does not know well, for rhetorical effect - especially before expostulating. This use is somewhat dated, but still exists. The second point, more relevant to the question, is that "Dear" as a form of address without a name or other word is only used with close friends or family (expect occasionally in an ironic way).
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:46
  • 1
    @Absolute Beginner: In AmE, it would be highly unusual to use "dear" or "my dear" with "work fellows and colleagues". It could get you fired. A woman of grandmotherly age might say it to a young female or male coworker. That's about it.
    – TimR
    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:05
  • 1
    @Tᴚoɯɐuo - that might depend on context and you would not use it to address your boss. I've worked in Londond and I used it with peer colleagues with whom I worked on a daily basis. It is not an expression you use every time you talk to them of course.
    – user5267
    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:09
  • 1
    @Absolute Beginner: In the US, a guy would not say "my dear" to another guy. And if a middle-aged man, say, working in a company large enough to have an HR department, were to use "my dear" with a female coworker of equal status, or with a female underling, or with a female coworker to whom he reported as his superior, he could easily find himself looking for another job. Perhaps a fellow nearing retirement age could get away with saying it to a young female employee if she found the form of address old fashioned and benign.
    – TimR
    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:27
  • 2
    Quoting directly, from messages I received from Aliexpress sellers: "Thank you for your order,dear . if you got any problem, please contact us directly for assistance ." "dear ,are you here? please contact to us ,now you still have so many days to receive the package ,why do you open the dispute ?" "can you try many times carefully dear? to check again ?"
    – SF.
    Sep 4, 2017 at 13:43

In most languages we have this "dear" whether to drag people's attention for asking a question, or addressing someone in our thank you responses and such like. It all depends on the situation and context. how would you react or take it if you hear that in BrE English a shopkeeper may greet a lady with "love", [ How can I help you love?]. There it goes another example of using the word in its context, register and region which bears an acceptable and fashionable meaning; so at the same time may not be suitable use in another place. And if one wants to translate them, they'd better give a popular equivalent in the target language.

  • 1
    "in BrE English a shopkeeper may greet a lady with "love" - or in different BrE regional dialects, "duck", "chick", etc, rather than "love"! Where I live, a common greeting is "Are you all right?" which simply means "Hello," and not "You look ill, do you need any medical help?"
    – alephzero
    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .