Given the fast pace of the modern world, it’s no surprise that our slang has changed rapidly, too. Even less of a surprise is how many terms of endearment come and go: dear, honey, love, sweety, sugar, baby, boo, and now…bae?
If you’ve never heard “bae” before, or are even still trying to understand its meaning in English, you’re probably wondering how to respond to it.
If someone close to you calls you “Bae” and it doesn’t bother you, you don’t need to respond. If it seems inappropriate, answer, for example: “I didn’t think we were dating, so are you sure you want to call me bae?”
What Does “Bae” Mean?
Made popular through hip-hop lyrics, “bae” is either short for “babe” or “baby” or an acronym for “before anyone else.”
It is a term of endearment that rose to popularity during the early aughts, predominantly within the youth and urban slang. Ultimately, it is another term to express to another person your sincerest affections.
How Should You Respond If Someone Calls You “Bae”?
How you respond to someone calling you “bae” is dependent on the type of relationship you are in and how serious that relationship is. Here are some potential scenarios and how you might respond.
Boyfriend / Girlfriend
If your significant other calls you “bae” and you have just started dating, you can take this as a sign that you have found some level of significance in this person’s life.
If this person is someone of interest, then feel free to respond similarly.
If this person is not someone that you want to date seriously and are just interested in for transient company, and especially if you are thinking of potentially ending the relationship, then you may want to respond and indicate your apprehension.
Saying something such as
“Whoa, I guess you’re serious”
“Maybe we should take things slower, honey”
may indicate in less oblique terms that you aren’t comfortable with being so endearing in address.
Ultimately, the term “bae” is both a means of expressing affection as well as a very consolidated means of expressing some level of unity that varies between fondness and devotion.
If your wife or husband happens to call you “bae”, then this is simply a modern variation of sharing one’s sentiments positively, not unlike calling your spouse “babe” or “baby”. If you like this term, then feel free to reciprocate.
If it’s not your type of address, then feel free to address your significant other however you wish.
If you don’t like this term or find it overwhelmingly confusing and would prefer something else, then politely requesting a change may be the best course.
“Bae, what about just being your babe?”
Saying something simple like this would suffice to revert to a more traditional term of endearment.
Parents / Relatives
Although your mother, and rarely your father, may refer to you as their “baby”, the terms “babe” and “baby” are generally reserved for two people who are in an intimate relationship.
Likewise, given how novel the term “bae” is, it would more likely be rarer than not that your parents, grandparents, or extended relatives would use this term, the only chance being if a sibling or cousin who is familiar with such slang.
In the rare event that a family member ends up using this term, they may either be joking or unfamiliar with its affectionate roots, in which case you don’t have to respond, you can respond jokingly or you can continue the joke and call them “bae”.
If they continue to refer to you as such and you sense they may be implying something else, feel free to respond in a more interrogative way:
“Are you sure you want to call me bae because I didn’t think that we were dating.”
This is usually enough to get them to stop.
A Boss / Coworkers
Given that this term is used to refer to someone with who you are affectionate, it would be rare to hear this term in the workplace. A coworker, particularly a younger one or an older coworker more familiar with youth or urban culture may use this term.
If you are familiar and friendly with this person, then just take it as a sign of friendship and feel free to respond with any familiar terms that indicate your friendly sentiments.
If this person is not so friendly and you think that this person may be intimating some desires for being more than just coworkers, once again, you are entitled to call this person out on their use of such a term.
Say something like:
“I don’t know if that’s something that you should be saying to me”
This is a very direct but still polite means of addressing the use of the term that may not represent the state of your relationship.
If a boss uses this term unless you work in a setting where everyone is very familiar with each other to the point that you are more like a family than a team or work unit, politely reminding your boss of the meaning of the term may help to initiate a change to a more appropriate term.
For example, you could say:
“I’m sorry, but I thought that bae meant ‘before anyone else?'”
This is a very innocent and innocuous means of directing the attention away from you, especially if it was intended to elicit a favorable response; if it was an accidental misunderstanding, then your boss will probably apologize and not use this term anymore.
Ultimately, the term “bae” is a perfectly sincere if not somewhat vague means of expressing your affection towards another person. If you happen to hear this term being used, especially towards you, feel free to bask in the warm feeling of being someone’s bae.
If you are so inclined, you can tell that same person that they are your bae. While not everyone may find this term as sincere and endearing as any other term that has been used by those in love, bae can still convey how you feel.
When one bae meets another bae, the simple way to respond is to say, “Hey, bae.”
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.