Can I use "dear" and "darling" to address a friend who is older, younger or the same age as me?

In one email I'll send to a friend who is older than me, can I say this?

Dear, I know what you mean, even if…

In the other one email I'll sent to a friend who is younger than me, can I say this?

Dear, I am still in New Zealand and intend to…

  • First you ask how to use 'dear' and 'darling'. Then you ask can you use 'dear' or 'darling'. These are different questions. In addition, you have provided no context. Do you mean in person, in speech, in writing, in a letter, or what. In short it is unclear what you are asking.
    – user6951
    Dec 23, 2014 at 9:10
  • thanks, CarSmack. I've already edited my question as you mentioned about the context of my question in your answer. thank you for your answer.
    – Sally H
    Dec 24, 2014 at 20:18
  • Except when said by a man to his girlfriend, fiancée, or wife, these expressions seem more appropriate to my (American) ear when said by a woman, not by a man.
    – Jasper
    Sep 30, 2015 at 0:21

1 Answer 1


Nowadays, social protocols regarding forms of address in 'polite society' in western English-speaking countries are much more relaxed than they were 100 or 200 years ago, especially in the USA (and even in stuffy old Britain).

Unless you're part of the Hollywood crowd or a London West End actor, most people would probably reserve 'Darling' for people with whom they have a romantic relationship. 'Dear' also implies a certain degree of (at least emotional) intimacy.

But I don't think age differences are much of a factor now in terms of the general expectations that people have about how they ought to address one another.

The chief exception is perhaps such limited circumstances as where a large status difference is coupled with an occasion of some formality, especially when it also involves an official hierarchy with its associated rules of proper conduct (such as pertains to a branch of the armed forces).

You must log in to answer this question.

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