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I usually greet my friends in many different ways, like Hola, guapa / bonita / amiga / etc.

Sometimes with really close friends I would also use Hola, princesa! in a more perky way.

But is it OK to use cariño for non-family members, even if those people are very good and close friends to you? I'm not really sure how much affection is applied by this word.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

In Mexico is not a word a man would use for anybody but a spouse or daughter, not even a son. For women is different, they would use it way more often and also depends on the socioeconomic level (amongst high-middle class it would be acceptable) (copy & pasted from above)

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it depends also on the context, for example in Spain between friends, or in a relaxed environment, is OK and pretty common, but in a (formal) work environment it can be seen as a sexist comment, pretty much like your boss saying "honey" or "princess" to a girl in a meeting.

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I would not say it's pretty common to say cariño to friends at least not in the east side of Spain. You usually say that to your partner (or son/daughter if you are a mother). – Wawy Apr 14 '14 at 15:43

I agree that it depends a lot on the country and even region.

In some places I have seen "cariño" used among close frinds, mostly women. Also I have it seen used to mark distance (a superior woman calling an inferior "cariño" as a sign of superiority like the one has over her children).

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De la misma manera es usado en cuba – Emilio Gort Apr 17 '14 at 2:30

It depends highly on

  • Country (e.g. in Chile it would be acceptable, in Argentina the word is not very much used in this sense)
  • Socioeconomic level (amongst high-middle class it would be acceptable)
  • Sexism awareness

So I'd ask directly if the use would be OK among your group.

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