What words are used to call the kids who are somewhat naughty, especially in the following scenario?

Let's say you're reading something, suddenly from the back your daughter scares you with loud sound, and you fall from the chair. Then you look back, it's your daughter. Now what word do you use to call her? Here you can call "Stupid", but that means to insult the kid and not an affectionate word. Here you love your kid and she is just mischievous and playfully scared you, so here you won't use the word "stupid" or "you mischievous kid". Are there any better words or phrase people use here?

  • You've already used the most common word several times yourself! Eight centuries ago, kid just meant a young goat. It was another four centuries before it started to be used of human children at all, and a couple more before it became commonplace and unexceptional with that sense. Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 21:41
  • I've heard raccoon or squirrel since they get into everything and play around. Less nice words like punk can be used affectionately with younger children by adding little: little punk
    – Phil
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 22:18
  • Reading this question after an excerpt from A Midsummer Night's Dream, I find it difficult not to think of puck. Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 4:43
  • A comment to the heavy edit - I'll not call her anything, I'll just shout with her name. In my case, RHYME.... There cannot be one word that will fulfill all the specified parameter. This question is now opinion based.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 4:43
  • @MaulikV Edited my question and narrowed to a specific scenario.
    – T2E
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 3:35

3 Answers 3


One of the first words that came to my mind was rugrat (sometimes written as rug rat). Many dictionaries I checked (including Dictionary.com, Macmillan, TFD, and the Online Slang Dictionary) indicated the word is

  • used to reference young children
  • chiefly used in North America
  • often used humorously or affectionately

It doesn't particularly denote mischievous children, although the term does seem to convey the notion that such young children are mischievous in general.

Another more general term would be brat. Macmillan indicates this word could be considered insulting:

brat (n., informal) an annoying child who behaves badly; an insulting word for a child

but Collins allows for a more playful usage of the word:

brat (n.) a child, esp one who is ill-mannered or unruly: used contemptuously or playfully

Whether brat would be considered derisive or affectionate would depend largely on the tone in which it was used, along with the facial expressions of the person using the word. One could use it in the context you describe in your question, especially if the word was uttered more good-naturedly than harsh.

I'll bet there are plenty of other words that could be used. When I looked for synonyms of brat, I stumbled across whippersnapper, which Macmillan (correctly, in my mind) labels as old-fashioned. Yet it's still a valid candidate; when dealing with kids, you might prefer to not use the same term over and over again without mixing things up on occasion.

  • 5
    I'd go with "little rascals"
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 0:10
  • @Jim - An excellent addition.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 1:13
  • @J.R."Little brat" seems what I'm looking for. Are any similar words? I didn't mean synonyms.
    – T2E
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 17:59

Growing up in the midwestern United States I heard "stinker" a lot in reference to a young child who caused trouble in a cute way. I think it's pretty regionally specific and somewhat antiquated.

"Troublemaker" is pretty close to your description of "tail", at least when applied to a child.

"Rambunctious" is an adjective meaning roughly the same thing as "naughty" but it has a softer connotation.

"Ornery" means bad-tempered and grouchy but if you apply it to a child it will be understood to be friendly.

A word of warning- "Monkey" can be considered to be racially insensitive if you use it to describe a person of African descent.


It may not be what you're looking for, but the word "nuisance" is an abstract term that's often used in the same vein as your examples - as in, "my son's being a bit of a nuisance today". In addition to that, while not extraordinarily common, "monkey" is also used regularly enough in English to describe a mischievous and/or over-active child for people to know what you're talking about. I doubt many English speakers would particularly understand what you meant with regards to "(little) tail", and "rat" is probably considered too insulting for your purposes.

So, long story short, probably go with "monkey". There's certainly more terms that people will understand, but the fact that I can't think of any probably implies that they aren't in remarkably common use.

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